Royal Bank of Scotland bosses braced for AGM
Royal Bank of Scotland executives will be in the firing line next week when they are expected to be grilled by shareholders over pension perks for top bosses at the lender’s annual meeting.
The group, 62% owned by the taxpayer, will become the latest bank to face scrutiny over the discrepancy between pensions enjoyed by board members and those of the average worker.
Chief executive Ross McEwan receives a pension of £350,000, which amounts to 35% of his £1 million basic salary, but those working in branches typically receive just 10%.
The Investment Association, which oversees £7.7 trillion in assets, and shareholder society ShareSoc have both raised alarm over the arrangement.
The IA said in February that it will monitor and embarrass any company that pays pension contributions to new directors in a way not aligned to the majority of the workforce.
It is also asking companies to reduce the gap between the pensions of top executives and staff and will issue a “red-top” warning – the highest and most serious level – on firms which pay newly-appointed directors at rates above the majority of the workforce.
It wants pension payments for existing executives brought below 25%.
ShareSoc, which is recommending investors vote against the RBS’s remuneration report at the Edinburgh AGM on April 26, has also highlighted that finance director Katie Murray receives a 10% pension payment, much lower than Mr McEwan’s.
RBS investors have also been urged to vote down the remuneration report by shareholder advisory firm PIRC, which is angry at Mr McEwan’s £3.6 million pay packet.
PIRC said elements of Mr McEwan’s pay award are “excessive”, and pointed to the fact he is paid 46 times more than the average bank employee.
The New Zealander’s pay packet last year consisted of a £1 million basic salary, a £1 million fixed share allowance and another £1.1 million as part of a long-term incentive award.
However, other investor advisory groups Glass Lewis and ISS are recommending shareholders vote in favour of the RBS remuneration report.
For its part, RBS is to consult over its remuneration policy, including the pension plan, next year.
Pensions are likely to be a major flashpoint during AGM season, when pay awards at several companies are expected to come under close scrutiny, with the prospect of shareholder rebellions high.
In recent weeks, the likes of Lloyds, HSBC and Centrica have moved to slash pension perks as anger rises over the discrepancy between chief executive awards versus the amounts workers are entitled to.
At RBS, Mr McEwan’s future is also expected to be focal point on Thursday, and the bank may be asked for a timeline of his departure.
At the helm since 2013, the Kiwi has presided over a return to profit at RBS, which in February reported its second successive year in the black and announced a £1.6 billion final dividend, resulting in a near £1 billion windfall for the taxpayer.
The appointment of Alison Rose as deputy chief executive of NatWest Holdings last year sparked intense speculation she is being lined up as a successor to Mr McEwan.
The bank will also release first quarter results on Friday.