The results of the annual director remuneration survey are in. (Read the media release here, and press reports here and here.) Fees have climbed about four per cent in the last twelve months, slightly ahead of CPI. The survey results also indicate that director workload has increased by 41 per cent over the same period.
A cursory analysis suggests that the workload increase is, to a large extent, a consequence of increased compliance requirements: more rules and regulations. While a 'more work, more pay' argument is eminently justifiable, is it fair? Moves to increase directors' fees as a consequence of increased compliance workload may deliver an unintended consequence: a back-to-the-future experience. Boards are likely to become more defensive and cautious, contributing relatively little to what they are there for—the pursuit of company performance.
Rather than peg directors fees to time and compliance activity, it might be more productive to ask whether company value (however that might be expressed) is growing as a consequence of board contributions. Many leading commentators (Bob Monks, Bob Garratt, Morten Huse and Richard Leblanc, amongst others) have suggested that boards need to become more strategic, by looking to the future. Yet statutes and regulations cannot be ignored. Boards and shareholders need to wrestle with this tension. Questions of strategy, decision-making, division of labour, accountability and ethics need to be debated and resolved. Ultimately, viable resolutions are most likely to emerge from a joint commitment to the long-term purpose of the company.
The board needs to drive company performance in pursuit of shareholder wishes, while also ensuring that statutory and regulatory requirements are appropriately satisfied. If the board demonstrably leads the company forward, and does so in accordance with both the agreed purpose of the company and relevant statutes, shareholders are unlikely to baulk at proposals to reward the contributions of directors appropriately.
Thoughts on corporate governance, strategy and boardcraft; our place in the world; and other topics that catch my attention.