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Call for new attitude to executive salaries

HIGH-profile Scottish fund manager James Anderson has called on British executives to emulate the approach of late Apple chief executive Steve Jobs to pay as he unveiled a new heavyweight Investor Forum intended to boost shareholders' influence with the companies they own.

TOP OF THE TREE: Apple's Steve Jobs famously only took a $1 a year salary in latter years as boss.
TOP OF THE TREE: Apple's Steve Jobs famously only took a $1 a year salary in latter years as boss.

Mr Jobs famously received $1 a year in salary during his latter years with the American technology giant but benefited from the soaring value of his shares in the company.

Mr Anderson, a partner at venerable Edinburgh investment house Baillie Gifford, chaired the funds industry's Collective Engagement Working Group which is establishing the forum. Backers include heavyweight UK investors such as Legal & General Investment Management and Strathclyde Pension Fund.

Crucially, it also claims support from some US institutions. Mr Anderson believes some sovereign wealth funds from Asia and the Middle East, which have hitherto shied away from corporate controversies, will give the body their public backing in time.

Mr Anderson is best known for overseeing the £2.5 billion Scottish Mortgage investment trust which backs companies around the globe.

He said: "I genuinely think that when you consider the outstanding companies in the world, at none and I mean none, is the management obsessed by how much they are paid."

He added: "The greatest ever CEO (chief executive officer) Steve Jobs was paid a dollar a year.

"Why do we not have more British companies doing something similar?"

Baillie Gifford never discloses the pay it gives its partners and Mr Anderson acknowledged there is a certain hypocrisy in famously well remunerated fund managers taking action on the rewards given to others.

But he said: "We need to think about strategy and different motivations rather than monetary incentives."

He said that UK companies are too often focused on short-term targets, which are then linked to pay.

"Where we (forum members) think that the system of incentives paid in places acts malignly then we want to be very actively engaged," he said.

But he added: "We are not concerned about whether someone gets £50,000 or not."

He said that the improvement in engagement between investors and companies is "not a chimera".

"Ultimately these improvements can contribute to increased wealth creation by companies and for savers," he said. "We must be consistently engaged rather than occasionally outraged or so often apathetic."

He said the key challenge had been getting overseas investors, who now own more than half the shares on the UK stock market, involved in corporate engagement.

He said he was confident that even some sovereign wealth funds, who invest money on behalf of typically Far Eastern or Middle Eastern Governments will go public about their involvement with the forum.

"They have been pretty supportive. It is just difficult for them to stick their heads out," he said.

He said he hoped the initiative would also help prove the merits of long-term investing at a time when much of the stock market is in the hands of short-term traders at investment banks and hedge funds.

Sacha Sadan, director of corporate governance at Legal & General Investment Management who will oversee the creation of the forum, said: "The aim is to embrace all major UK investors wherever they are based."

Lord Davies of Abersoch, senior independent director at Johnnie Walker whisky owner Diageo, said: "There has been increasing demand for a clear dialogue on key issues with the largest shareholders in a more formal way as AGMs (annual general meetings) have become more suited to the smaller shareholders. Implemented well and this will be real progress."

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