The latest round of annual reporting in New Zealand confirms that the size of CEO remuneration packages are continuing to track upwards. Reports from SkyTV, Ebos and others suggest that the now well-established trend shows no signs of slowing down.
The concept of executives (actually, all staff) receiving remuneration commensurate with their performance and the value they add to the corporation sits comfortably with me. However, the steady spiral upwards of CEO packages, at what seems to be an unchecked rate, may be the harbinger of a longer term problem: that any linkage between the package, actual performance and market forces is lost. If boards are truly focussed on the optimisation of performance in accordance with the wishes of shareholders, then boards need to ask the following three questions every year:
I am sure that the first and second questions are being asked by boards: the evidence is in the packages. However, I suspect the third question gets much attention. If a board was exploring its options, the likelihood of being captured by the CEO (or their reputation at least) should be much lower. While easy answers are unlikely to exist, boards need to grapple with these matters, by asking and acting on all three questions. Until they do, the law of supply-and-demand is likely to prevail, and the upward trend is likely to continue unabated, possibly to the detriment of long-term shareholder value.
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Thoughts on corporate governance, strategy and boardcraft; our place in the world; and other topics that catch my attention.