Standard Life Chairman Says Executive Pay Too High in London

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Gerry Grimstone.

Photographer: Nelson Ching/Bloomberg
  • 22.3% of shares voted at meeting against compensation report
  • Pay ‘tightening and will continue to tighten,’ Grimstone says

Standard Life Plc Chairman Gerry Grimstone told shareholders at the firm’s annual general meeting in London that executive pay is “too high” across the U.K.’s financial services industry.

Grimstone made his comments as investors holding 22.3 percent of Standard Life shares voted against the remuneration report. That compares with the rest of the resolutions, which all had more than 90 percent support, results from Edinburgh-based Standard Life showed.

“It does send a message,” the chairman told reporters on the sidelines of the meeting, which was held in London for the first time. “The pay climate is tightening and will continue to tighten. We don’t want to pay more than we have to but we are working in a globally competitive marketplace.”

Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. recommended voting against Chief Executive Officer Keith Skeoch’s pay. The CEO last week volunteered to reduce his long-term bonus to 2.8 million pounds ($4.1 million), or four times his salary. The maximum bonus had been five times his salary.

Investors in British companies from BP Plc to Anglo American Plc and Reckitt Benckiser Group Plc have rebelled against multimillion-pound CEO pay packages this year, echoing the “shareholder spring” of 2012 that led to the departure of executives at firms including Aviva Plc, one of Standard Life’s insurance rivals.

Grimstone, who is also deputy chairman of Barclays Plc, said that as long as London remains a global financial center, executive pay would remain higher as firms scramble to retain top talent.

“We have to pay approximate to the going rate,” he told shareholders. “There is downward pressure on pay and that is a good thing.”

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