Analysis of the first 40 blue-chip businesses to publish their remuneration reports has revealed that 42.5 per cent of their bosses did not get a salary increase this year, reports the Telegraph.
Consultancy PwC examined remuneration documents of the FTSE 100 businesses to get a snapshot of how pay policy is shaping up.
It found that the median total pay figure – which includes bonuses – for company chiefs dropped this year by £200,000 to £4.1m, a fall of 4.7 per cent.
For the highest-paid quartile of chief executives, there was an even bigger drop, with total pay packets declining by 13 per cent to £5.7m, something PwC attributed to pressure from investors.
“Companies are under the most intense scrutiny ever on pay decisions, and it’s no surprise they are generally showing restraint,” said Tom Gosling, head of reward at PwC.
“Pay levels overall remain broadly flat or down in real terms, and pay has fallen sharply at the highest paying companies. This reflects continued shareholder pressure on companies perceived to be outliers on pay.”
The data, derived from an analysis of remuneration reports of the first 40 FTSE 100 companies with year ends on or after 30 September 2016, also found that rises in basic salary were also waning.
For those chief executives who did get an increase in their basic pay, the size of the rise was smaller at 2 per cent this time round, down from 3 per cent in the same period last year.
Executive has become a high-profile issue over the past year, with Prime Minister Theresa May seeming to set the tone in her inaugural speech last summer, saying the Brexit vote was partly a protest by the public against corporate bosses who “don’t get it”.
Mrs May used the address to pledge her government would be “driven not by the interests of the privileged few, but for everyone of us” and also referenced the struggling middle classes. The government’s business committee has also called for significant changes to bosses’ pay policies.
Major investors have also raised similar concerns. Legal & General, one of the UK’s biggest asset managers, has been at the forefront of the campaign calling for pay restraint. Its last corporate governance report revealed it opposed 118 pay resolutions in the UK in 2016.
Last summer the Investment Association, which controls £5.5 trillion of assets, issued a 10-point plan it said was aimed at rebuilding trust over what it called “excessive and ineffectual” executive pay.
However, PwC said the calls seem to have gone largely unheeded, saying there companies “are showing no appetite for radical change”.
The analysis revealed that 63 per cent of the FTSE 100 companies covered by its research are proposing new remuneration policies, but these contain very limited structural change, and almost all of them will continue to use controversial share incentives which can deliver massive bonuses.
Mr Gosling added: “Despite growing calls for reform, the continued divergence in shareholder views have made it too risky for FTSE 100 companies to contemplate radical change to pay design this year.”
Just 10pc of the companies covered by analysis have opted to include the chief executive to average employee pay ratio, highlighting how many times the boss’s pay is that of a staff member, though Mr Gosling added that such a blunt instrument is unlikely to be the answer to addressing concerns about executive pay.
Shareholder activist group PIRC has been a leading voice in the campaign for reform of executive pay. It argued the PwC analysis is too early to show a true trend, with some of the companies with particularly highly paid executives not reporting until much later.
It also raised concerns about LTIP share incentives, calling them a “fundamentally broken model”, with a spokesman adding: “It is encouraging that the upper quartile pay, so far, appears to have fallen but LTIPs remain a problem in principle, and upper quartile pay will still have been boosted by these LTIPs. ”
PIRC also raised questions about consultancies advising companies of executive rewards.
“We have a problem with auditing firms – who are employed to act in the interests of shareholders and creditors – advising on pay,” the spokesman said. “It places them far too close to executive self-interest.”