Standard Life Aberdeen investors revolt on CFO pay

Stephanie Bruce

About 42% of shareholders of Standard Life Aberdeen (SLA) on Tuesday voted in protest against the pay package of the Edinburgh investment giant’s new chief financial officer (CFO) Stephanie Bruce.

Bruce’s basic salary will be £525,000, a 16.7% increase on predecessor Bill Rattray — and a shares package of worth up to £750,000.

The SLA investors voted against the firm’s remuneration report — Resolution 5 at the AGM — to show their opposition to the pay package for the new CFO who is joining SLA from consultant PwC.

Proxy advisers Glass Lewis and Institutional Shareholder Services had voiced disapproval of the pay increase and the one-off recruitment award.

In a statement after the firm’s AGM, SLA said: “In relation to the advisory vote on Resolution 5, the board recognises the significant percentage of votes cast against this resolution.  

“Through engagement, we were aware that certain institutional shareholders were not supportive of specific aspects of the arrangements relating to the remuneration of the incoming CFO, as disclosed in the directors’ remuneration report.  

“These arrangements were developed following extensive discussion with the remuneration committee and its advisers, and are in accordance with the authority granted to the remuneration committee under the remuneration policy and the deferred share plan approved by shareholders at the 2018 AGM. 

“However, as previously announced, taking account of shareholder feedback and in agreement with the incoming CFO, we have applied performance conditions to the award. 

“Stephanie Bruce is an outstanding addition to our executive team at Standard Life Aberdeen, as our shareholders have acknowledged in their overwhelming endorsement of her appointment as CFO.

“The reason we made this award, was to allow us to attract a talented senior executive from outside of the investment management industry who was previously remunerated on a comparatively consistent annual reward package, without the significant deferral arrangements we apply. 

“In the coming months, we will continue to engage with shareholders on the concerns raised on this resolution. 

“In accordance with the UK Corporate Governance Code, we will publish an update on that engagement within six months of the AGM.  

“We expect to seek shareholder approval for a new directors’ remuneration policy at our AGM in 2021 in line with the normal cycle for renewal.”