Even City bigwigs think it's time to overhaul the pay structures used by the UK's biggest listed firms

Hayley Kirton
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Firms should explore other models for their executive pay, said the report (Source: Getty)

It's not just shareholders who are showing their growing unrest at vast executive pay packets. Now some of the most influential figures in the City have spoken out against pay models that they claim are "not fit for purpose".

Big names including Legal & General boss Nigel Wilson, Sainsbury chairman David Tyler and Helena Morrissey, chief executive of Newton Investment Management have lent their names to the report, compiled by the Investment Association's executive remuneration working group, urging the UK's biggest companies to rethink their pay structures.

"The current approach to executive pay in UK listed companies is not fit for purpose, and has resulted in a poor of alignment of interests between executives, shareholders and the company," said Wilson, who is chairman of the group.

"Greater transparency, clearer alignment of shareholder, company and executive interests, more accountability on the part of remuneration committees and greater engagement with and control by shareholders, working through company boards, are vital to restore confidence in a system widely seen as broken."

Read more: Executive pay is broken: How to reform it to restore public trust

The report argues that current structures – which have allowed executive pay to treble, despite the FTSE trading at broadly the same level it was in the late 1990s – are "ultimately damaging to the listed company sector" and causing "widespread scepticism and loss of public confidence".

It comes amid a shareholder spring, which has already seen BP shareholders shot down chief executive Bob Dudley's $19.6m (£13.8m) proposed pay packet.

The oil giant isn't the only company to come under fire over boardroom pay. ShareSoc has urged shareholders to strike down Anglo American chief executive Mark Cutifani's £3.4m reward package when the miner holds its AGM this afternoon and Pensions and Investment Research Consultants (Pirc) has advised shareholders to vote against HSBC's chief executive Stuart Gulliver's £7.3m package when the bank hosts its AGM on Friday.

Read more: What your staff really think about your salary

Yesterday, City A.M. learnt that Royal London Asset Management was planning to vote no on chief executive Pascal Soriot's £8.4m reward bundle at AstraZeneca's AGM next week.

Founder and chief executive of WPP Sir Martin Sorrell has also come out fighting, defending his £63m pay deal in a recent interview.

"Most of my wealth, if not all of it, is and has been for the last 31 years tied up in the success of WPP. So if WPP does well, I do well, and others in the company do well. If we do badly, we suffer," he said.

But the writing could be on the wall for Sorrell and his ilk. Today's report will form the basis of a series of roundtable discussions, and a final report by the working group is expected in the summer.

Already it has won the backing of organisations such as the Institute of Directors, whose director general Simon Walker said:

It is increasingly clear that there is a problem with executive pay at big listed companies. The introduction of binding votes on pay policy has not had the kind of immediate and positive impact regulators and government would have wanted.

While some improvements have been made, the rebellion over BP’s remuneration report last week has shown that there is still considerable shareholder unhappiness.

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