Vast majority of financial services chiefs expect shareholder rebellions over executive pay to continue, according to report released by Per Ardua

 
Francesca Washtell
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City bigwigs are bracing for more shareholder activism (Source: Getty)

Finance bosses are braced for more shareholder activism over executive pay, following a string of rebellions so far this year.

More than eight in 10 respondents (82 per cent) to a Per Ardua Associates study said they were expecting to see more remuneration-focused activism from shareholders.

A quarter (25 per cent) also said their companies were already coming under pressure from shareholders on overall pay, while one chairman told Per Ardua that "asset managers are coming under pressure for not challenging enough on pay".

Read more: Will more shareholders say no to executive pay?

BP's chief executive Bob Dudley's $19.6m (£13.8m) paypacket was given the thumbs down by shareholders in mid-April, while investors at Paysafe Group also voted against chief executive Joel Leonoff being rewarded £6.7m, up from £5m the previous year.

"The spectre of shareholder activism or "Shareholder Spring 2.0" as it has been called –around pay remains a significant concern for chairmen and chief executives," Simon Hearn, chief executive of Per Ardua Associates, said.

"Cutting operating costs remains key, with restraint on compensation an important part of the exercise, and this is acknowledged by the vast majority of those we spoke to."

Read more: There’s little logic to 2016’s shareholder revolts against executive pay

A third of WPP shareholders gave Sir Martin Sorrell a bloody nose over his £70m pay package earlier this month, though the majority of investors chose to wave through boardroom pay at the advertising giant.

Brexit no concern

Per Ardua's research also found that the vast majority of respondents had not been deterred by the EU referendum taking place on Thursday.

Almost nine in 10 (88 per cent) of financial services executives said they would not be holding back from making major investments before the vote, while the same number said they would also be voting to stay in Europe.

Ladbrokes reported a "significant shift" in Brexit betting today, as punters flooded towards the Remain camp. The bookie is now offering odds of 3/10 on the UK voting to stay in Europe, equivalent to a 73 per cent chance of the Remain camp winning.

"The discovery that most financial services companies haven’t been holding off making investments ahead of the referendum flies in the face of received wisdom and the many polls conducted over the last three to six months which have suggested that non-financial services businesses are holding off investments until the second half of this year," Hearn added.

"Clearly this is not the case for financial services firms."

The company interviewed 35 chairmen and chief executives during the survey.

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