In its first Annual Review of Governance & Stewardship designed to lift the lid on the way it engages with companies, Standard Life said it sought changes to controversial bonuses proposed by Barclays last year.
It also highlighted concerns about pay at Aviva and the recruitment of former Standard Life executive Trevor Matthews, who has the role of executive director, developed markets at Aviva.
Guy Jubb, global head of governance and stewardship at SLI, said: "Looking forward, boards should demonstrate how they maintain not only high standards of business practice but also maintain the values that they espouse throughout their companies."
SLI, which manages £163 billion of assets, backs plans to give shareholders greater powers to block executive pay at UK companies, having initially opposed the approach.
"Time will tell whether the current raft of changes will result in 'change for good'. On balance, we believe they will strengthen the governance and stewardship environment," Mr Jubb said.