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Transparency bumps up CEO pay

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 4/09/2016 Fiona Rotherham

An unintended consequence of more transparency over executive pay has been a rising corporate wage bill, says professional director Tony Carter.

Executive remuneration is a thorny issue with the increasing gap between the pay packets of bosses and their workers causing protests and shareholder dissent globally.

Mr Carter, who chairs the Air New Zealand and Fisher & Paykel Healthcare boards and is a director of ANZ Bank New Zealand and Fletcher Building, told those attending the NZ Shareholders' Association annual meeting over the weekend that the trend for wider disclosure on executive remuneration was, in the main, a good thing because shareholders had a right to know.

But the unintended consequence is that executives got to see what their counterparts at other companies were paid.

"You can be sure Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon knows what his counterparts at Qantas and Virgin Australia are being paid," he said.

"Company A pays a salary to its CEO and company B sees that and increases its pay and the pressure comes back on company A to respond."

Mr Carter said his key message was that companies had to attract and retain the best talent and that means paying them competitive salaries.

New Zealand only had a small pool of people in with the skills to be chief executive of larger listed companies and they had a range of options within the country and offshore, Mr Carter said.

Executive pay was also lower in New Zealand than in Australia and Australia is behind the rest of the world, as executives are quick to point out, he said.

"Shareholders may not like it but the alternative is you may end up employing the B team and the results of that will be much worse for all shareholders," he said.

"Pay peanuts and you get monkeys."

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