STANDARD Life Aberdeen fended off a shareholder revolt by a narrow margin in a vote over the remuneration report that followed concerns over the pay structure for a new chief financial officer.

Issues were raised over part of the bonus structure for the new finance chief, Stephanie Bruce, who joins in June from PwC, which was redrawn and presented for the vote at the firm’s annual general meeting in Edinburgh.

However, investors owning just over 57 per cent of shares backed the package as it was presented with changes over initial pay being directly connected to performance.

The board, with key members in place including Sir Douglas Flint as chair and Keith Skeoch as chief executive, were quizzed about the gender pay gap and morale in the financial service industry.

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A handful of questions came the floor of around 100 at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre.

One of those in the hall, Anne-Marie Williams, said she was there as an appointed representative of ShareAction, who are shareholders in the company.

She said she was interested in an improved gender pay gap and improved female representation and called for the percentage of portfolio managers who are women to be published.

She asked: “Is the board happy to publish that number over time?”

Sir Douglas said the firm would meet with the group adding gender pay gap issues are “something we are trying to address through a number of ways”.

“I don’t know the number of portfolio managers who are male or female. Let me see if we can find that information and we can decide whether it is appropriate to share.

“I can’t see personally why not.”

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Asked about low morale in the financial sector, Sir Douglas said: “I think companies that have gone through significant challenges come out the other end much stronger.

“We have done an employee management survey and the results of that are not where where we want them to be, but they kind of represent the fact that we are in a difficult industry in a difficult time that is coming together that dealing with a whole bunch of challenges.”

Mr Skeoch said: “The first thing is recognising there is an issue. Last year was the most difficult investment environment seen since 1901, and if you’re involved in business that of course is quite stressful.”

Sir Douglas welcomed the appointment of Ms Bruce, but noted the response to the earlier pay package.

The firm said in its statement that “the board recognises the significant percentage of votes cast against this [remuneration] resolution”.

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“Through engagement, we were aware that certain institutional shareholders were not supportive of specific aspects of the arrangements relating to the remuneration of the incoming CFO, as disclosed in the directors’ remuneration report.

“However, as previously announced, taking account of shareholder feedback and in agreement with the incoming CFO, we have applied performance conditions to the award.

“Stephanie Bruce is an outstanding addition to our executive team at Standard Life Aberdeen, as our shareholders have acknowledged in their overwhelming endorsement of her appointment as CFO.”

The statement continued: “The reason we made this award, was to allow us to attract a talented senior executive from outside of the investment management industry who was previously remunerated on a comparatively consistent annual reward package, without the significant deferral arrangements we apply.

“In the coming months, we will continue to engage with shareholders on the concerns raised on this resolution.”

It will publish an update on that engagement within six months of the AGM. Shares closed at 257.51p, down 0.19 per cent.