Investor group raises concerns

Standard Life Aberdeen under fire over CFO pay deal

Aberdeen Standard Investments golf
A new CFO will join Standard Life Aberdeen in June (pic: Terry Murden)

Standard Life Aberdeen, which regularly calls for curbs on executive pay, could face a shareholder rebellion over the remuneration package offered to its incoming chief financial officer.

Stephanie Bruce, who joins the Edinburgh-headquartered asset manager on 1 June, will receive a £525,000 salary — about 17% higher than retiring Bill Rattray.

Ms Bruce, who joins from PwC, where she is a partner, will also receive a recruitment award worth £750,000, with shares that make up this part of her pay package vesting in equal tranches in June 2020, June 2021 and June 2022.

Standard Life Aberdeen said the one-off award recognised her move from a partnership model, where remuneration was delivered in cash, to a listed company, where a greater proportion of pay is variable and made in the form of equity awards.

However, governance body Glass Lewis said it views high fixed pay “with scepticism” and has recommended that shareholders vote against Standard Life Aberdeen’s remuneration report at its annual general meeting on 14 May.

It told investors: “While we recognise Ms Bruce’s experience as a financial services practitioner, we remain concerned that her salary is set higher than that of her predecessor, particularly given Mr Rattray’s experience at the company, where he has served on the board as CFO since the merger and previously as finance director of Aberdeen Asset Management since 1997.”

It added: “We would expect such an increase in pay to take the form of phased increases across the lifespan of Ms Bruce’s term, reflecting concomitant increases in experience and knowledge of the company. In addition, we have severe reservations regarding the one-off recruitment award.”

Glass Lewis acknowledged the nature of a one-off recruitment award but raised concerns that Bruce’s package “will not be subject to performance conditions”.

Glass Lewis is also recommending shareholders vote against Schroders’ executive remuneration over concerns it has about bonuses paid to senior executives, in particular the absence of a cap on the maximum amount that can be awarded.

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