Almost a quarter of Standard Life shareholders — about 22. 3% — voted against its directors’ remuneration report at its annual meeting on Tuesday.
Last week, Standard Life said its chief executive Keith Skeoch voluntarily cut his potential incentive plan from 500% of his salary to 400%.
Skeoch’s base salary is £700,000, according to Standard Life’s annual report.
Still, that statement was not enough for many shareholders and too late for others who had already voted.
Standard Life chairman Gerry Grimstone defended directors’ remuneration at the Edinburgh-based company that was holding its AGM in London for the first time in its long history.
“Operating responsibly means that we should run our company to the standards that as a major investor we rightly expect from others,” said Grimstone.
“This includes how we pay our senior executives.
“We must have good people managing our company who are fairly incentivised in what is a global market place but this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be conscious of our societal impact and the views of others.
“When we appointed Keith Skeoch to replace David Nish last year, the remuneration committee restructured his pay to reflect his new responsibilities running both a global investment company and a life assurance business.
“We believe in pay for performance and although, compared to his predecessor, the variable component was increased, his basic salary was decreased, deferral was lengthened, and shareholding requirements were tightened.
“We also set stretching targets so that the highest levels of reward required very high performance. The fact is that many of our shareholders agreed with us on this — other’s didn’t.
“Attitudes towards what is appropriate remuneration constantly evolve and what is right one year isn’t necessarily right the next. We listened to the feedback and discussed what to do.
“As a result of this, we announced last week that Keith Skeoch had confirmed to the chairman of the remuneration committee that he had voluntarily decided not to accept the maximum opportunity awarded to him in 2016 under the Standard Life Executive long-term incentive plan and was therefore handing back part of his entitlement.
“This was absolutely Keith’s decision which he volunteered but I personally applaud it as being the right thing to do in the circumstances.
“This change, of course, has come too late to change the directors’ remuneration report which you will be voting on today and a number of shareholders have already voted before the change was made. We will continue to engage with shareholders on these matters.”
Grimstone also reiterated Standard Life’s position on the European Referendum.
“We believe that access to the EU Single Market is in the best interests of our customers and clients,” said the chairman.
“The Single Market has created an environment that gives individuals and businesses the confidence to invest for the long term and it would be potentially damaging to the UK economy and therefore to companies such as Standard Life if the UK were to leave it.”