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Plan for Standard Life directors to retain its shares

SENIOR executives at Standard Life will have to own its shares even after they leave the group following an announcement from its fund management arm that it will demand such policies at the companies it invests in.

It is understood the Edinburgh pensions giant is consulting with shareholders about the measure as part of a new pay deal for top staff due to be put to the vote at its annual meeting next year.

A spokesman said: "As detailed in this year's annual report and accounts we have been consulting with shareholders on new incentive arrangements for directors.

"These will be proposed for approval at our 2014 AGM (annual general meeting).

"As well as reflecting feedback from our own shareholders, these proposals will also be informed by the stance we take as an investor in other companies."

Discussions between Standard Life and its shareholders have been going on for much of the year and the group intends to put a new set of proposals to them in the first quarter of 2014.

Current arrangements do not require executives to hold onto shares after they leave.

The details emerged as Standard Life Investments announced its support for arrangements that would require directors and senior executives to retain an "appropriate" proportion of the shares they own after they leave a company.

Guy Jubb, global head of governance & stewardship at SLI, said: "It will seek to ensure that as and when an executive leaves and something untoward then happens, that there is shared pain and potentially, when things go well, shared gain as well."

SLI hopes to persuade companies that executives hold shares for upwards of a year after exiting. Most are already required by their employers to build a minimum holding while they work there.

In the wake of the financial crisis, fund managers increasingly demanded that bonus deals tie in executives for the long term.

Fidelity International recently threatened to vote against bonus schemes that do not require bosses to hold shares for at least three years. Legal & General and Baillie Gifford are involved in an Investor Forum that will seek to persuade companies to operate with longer-term horizons.

One company to have undertaken reform is HSBC bank which requires executives to hold their shares until retirement.

Mr Jubb said: "We shall not only be looking to boards to demonstrate how they have ensured that their values and standards of business practice are implemented but also progressively hold them to account for doing so."

Sarah Wilson, chief executive of proxy voting agency Manifest, said: "Standard Life is a global investor so they are adopting global best practice. This shows how interconnected everybody is these days and how best practice is spreading."

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