Connect with us

Business

A New Approach to Executive Pay

Published

on

Sandy Pepper 1

Prof Alexander Pepper

Prof Alexander Pepper

Prof Alexander Pepper

The beginning of 2016 brought with it further controversy about executive pay.  A hard-hitting report from the High Pay Centre claimed that, by the end of the first Tuesday of the New Year –dubbed “Fat Cat Tuesday” – the UK’s top executives would have earned more than the average worker would make in an entire year.  The think tank’s reported aim was to draw attention to the “unfair pay gap” that exists between society’s highest and lowest earners, and it raised doubts about the government’s ability to curb executive pay inflation.

While news items like this catch the headlines, the reasons why executive pay has risen so fast are complex.

In trying to attract top talent at executive level organisations often face a ‘prisoner’s dilemma’ – attempting to second-guess their competitors offers and proposing larger remuneration packages to ensure success. The problem is exacerbated when other companies follow suit, resulting in spiralling offers which, in time, become viewed as normal, but which do not necessarily reflect the skills and abilities of individual executives.

The fundamental issue lies in the reliance on outdated financial theories. The principal agent model assumes that executives are self-interested, fully rational and solely financially motivated, reasoning that organisations must provide high-powered, performance-based incentive packages to encourage performance.

What agency theory fails to account for is the real psychology of incentives. Research conducted over the past 35 years has found little evidence of a significant link between executive pay and performance. Many executives I encountered during my years with PwC raised similar concerns; they found incentive packages too complex, too long drawn-out, and they didn’t properly appreciate the value of the rewards on offer.

My own research has attempted to better understand the relationship between executive pay and motivation by surveying more than 750 senior global executives on their preferences, using questions shaped by behavioural economics and economic psychology.

Four key points have emerged. Firstly, executives are more risk averse than financial theory suggests, preferring smaller certain outcomes than uncertain, yet potentially more rewarding, alternatives. They also attach heavy discounts to ambiguous and complex incentives. Secondly, intrinsic motivation is highly important. Many executives would sacrifice more than 20% of their income to work in more personally satisfying roles. Thirdly, executives typically discount the value of long-term awards at a rate in excess of 30%, significantly reducing their perceived value of the awards on offer at the offset, requiring organisations to provide larger pay-offs over the long term. Finally, fairness matters.  Executives pay attention to their level of reward in relation to their peers, rather than in absolute amounts.

These factors suggest that conventional methods of financial reward – especially long-term equity plans – contribute to the inflation in – not the regulation of – executive pay.

My research also sets out six principles which could provide organisations with a more effective means of regulating top pay;

  1. Performance-related pay is expensive and should be used wisely. Performance-related pay is not a universal solution as executives expect higher awards due to their risk discount factors (up to 50% higher than predicted by financial theory)
  2. Deferral is costly; instead use annual bonuses to encourage performance. Subjective time-value discount factors make short-term incentives far more efficient than long-term incentives
  3. Equity plans are inefficient. The economic and accounting costs typically exceed the perceived value which awards hold for the recipients. Where possible pay in cash or in other financial instruments whose value is readily appreciated
  4. Complexity destroys value. Simple but challenging performance metrics are far more effective than complex conditions as executives are not motivated by things they do not understand
  5. Fairness matters. Ensure that pay differentials in the top management team are commensurate with relative contributions and are therefore perceived to be equitable
  6. Money isn’t everything. Extrinsic rewards may crowd out intrinsic motivation. Companies should pay attention to the qualities of the person and to the design of their jobs, not just executive remuneration arrangements

However, it would be almost impossible for one company alone to enact such changes successfully. Collective action is required.

Revolutionising executive pay will require institutional change on a large scale.  This will involve social pressure, investor action, and government intervention with new laws and tighter regulation, in order to encourage corporate buy-in.  On top of this, academics need to develop new theories of executive agency to support the case for change.

Alexander Pepper is Professor of Management Practice in the Department of Management at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He is a leading researcher in HR management and labour markets issues, especially the impact of incentives and rewards on the behaviour of senior executives. Before joining LSE, he had a long career at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) where he held various senior management roles. Prof Pepper has recently written a book, The Economic Psychology of Incentives, published by Palgrave Macmillan, describing the research which forms the basis of this article.

Business

Euro zone business activity shrank in January as lockdowns hit services

Published

on

Euro zone business activity shrank in January as lockdowns hit services 1

By Jonathan Cable

LONDON (Reuters) – Economic activity in the euro zone shrank markedly in January as lockdown restrictions to contain the coronavirus pandemic hit the bloc’s dominant service industry hard, a survey showed.

With hospitality and entertainment venues forced to remain closed across much of the continent the survey highlighted a sharp contraction in the services industry but also showed manufacturing remained strong as factories largely remained open.

IHS Markit’s flash composite PMI, seen as a good guide to economic health, fell further below the 50 mark separating growth from contraction to 47.5 in January from December’s 49.1. A Reuters poll had predicted a fall to 47.6.

“A double-dip recession for the euro zone economy is looking increasingly inevitable as tighter COVID-19 restrictions took a further toll on businesses in January,” said Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit.

“Some encouragement comes from the downturn being less severe than in the spring of last year, reflecting the ongoing relative resilience of manufacturing, rising demand for exported goods and the lockdown measures having been less stringent on average than last year.”

The bloc’s economy was expected to grow 0.6% this quarter, a Reuters poll showed earlier this week, and will return to its pre-COVID-19 level within two years on hopes the rollout of vaccines will allow a return to some form of normality. [ECILT/EU]

A PMI covering the bloc’s dominant service industry dropped to 45.0 from 46.4, exceeding expectations in a Reuters poll that had predicted a steeper fall to 44.5 and still a long way from historic lows at the start of the pandemic.

With activity still in decline and restrictions likely to be in place for some time yet, services firms were forced to chop their charges. The output price index fell to 46.9 from 48.4, its lowest reading since June.

That will be disappointing for policymakers at the European Central Bank – who on Thursday left policy unchanged – as uncomfortably low inflation has been a thorn in the ECB’s side for years.

Factory activity remained strong and the manufacturing PMI held well above breakeven at 54.7, albeit weaker than December’s 55.2. The Reuters poll had predicted a drop to 54.5.

An index measuring output which feeds into the composite PMI fell to 54.5 from 56.3.

But despite strong demand factories again cut headcount, as they have every month since May 2019. The employment index fell to 48.9 from 49.2.

As immunisation programmes are being ramped up after a slow start in Europe optimism about the coming year remained strong. The composite future output index dipped to 63.6 from December’s near three-year high of 64.5.

“The roll out of vaccines has meanwhile helped sustain a strong degree of confidence about prospects for the year ahead, though the recent rise in virus case numbers has caused some pull-back in optimism,” Williamson said.

(Reporting by Jonathan Cable; Editing by Toby Chopra)

Continue Reading

Business

Volkswagen’s profit halves, but deliveries recovering

Published

on

Volkswagen's profit halves, but deliveries recovering 2

BERLIN (Reuters) – Volkswagen reported a nearly 50% drop in its 2020 adjusted operating profit on Friday but said car deliveries had recovered strongly in the fourth quarter, lifting its shares.

The world’s largest carmaker said full-year operating profit, excluding costs related to its diesel emissions scandal, came in at 10 billion euros ($12.2 billion), compared with 19.3 billion in 2019.

Net cash flow at its automotive division was around 6 billion euros and car deliveries picked up towards the end of the year, the German group said in a statement.

“The deliveries to customers of the Volkswagen Group continued to recover strongly in the fourth quarter and even exceeded the deliveries of the third quarter 2020,” it said.

Volkswagen’s shares, which had been down as much as 2%, turned positive and were up 1.5% at 164.32 euros by 1158 GMT.

Sales at the automaker rose 1.7% in December, at a time when new car registrations in Europe dropped nearly 4%, data from the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association showed.

Like its rivals, Volkswagen is facing several challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic as well as a global shortage of chips needed for production.

It also sees tough competition in developing electrified and self-driving cars. The merger of Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot-owner PSA to create the world’s fourth-biggest automaker Stellantis adds to the pressure.

Volkswagen said on Thursday it missed EU targets on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from its passenger car fleet last year and faces a fine of more than 100 million euros.

The group is expected to release detailed 2020 figures on March 16.

($1 = 0.8215 euros)

(Reporting by Kirsti Knolle; Editing by Maria Sheahan and Mark Potter)

Continue Reading

Business

Global chip shortage hits China’s bitcoin mining sector

Published

on

Global chip shortage hits China's bitcoin mining sector 3

By Samuel Shen and Alun John

SHANGHAI/HONG KONG (Reuters) – A global chip shortage is choking the production of machines used to “mine” bitcoin, a sector dominated by China, sending prices of the computer equipment soaring as a surge in the cryptocurrency drives demand.

The scramble is pricing out smaller miners and accelerating an industry consolidation that could see deep-pocketed players, many outside China, profit from the bitcoin bull run.

Bitcoin mining is closely watched by traders and users of the world’s largest cryptocurrency, as the amount of bitcoin they make and sell into the market affects its supply and price.

Trading around $32,000 on Friday, bitcoin is down 20% from the record highs it struck two weeks ago but still up some 700% from its March low of $3,850.

“There are not enough chips to support the production of mining rigs,” said Alex Ao, vice president of Innosilicon, a chip designer and major provider of mining equipment.

Bitcoin miners use increasingly powerful, specially-designed computer equipment, or rigs, to verify bitcoin transactions in a process which produces newly minted bitcoins.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co and Samsung Electronics Co, the main producers of specially designed chips used in mining rigs, would also prioritise supplies to sectors such as consumer electronics, whose chip demand is seen as more stable, Ao said.

The global chip shortage is disrupting production across a global array of products, including automobiles, laptops and mobile phones. [L1N2JP2MY]

Mining’s profitability depends on bitcoin’s price, the cost of the electricity used to power the rig, the rig’s efficiency, and how much computing power is needed to mine a bitcoin.

Demand for rigs has boomed as bitcoin prices soared, said Gordon Chen, co-founder of cryptocurrency asset manager and miner GMR.

“When gold prices jump, you need more shovels. When milk prices rise, you want more cows.”

CONSOLIDATION

Lei Tong, managing director of financial services at Babel Finance, which lends to miners, said that “almost all major miners are scouring the market for rigs, and they are willing to pay high prices for second-hand machines.”

“Purchase volumes from North America have been huge, squeezing supply in China,” he said, adding that many miners are placing orders for products that can only be delivered in August and September.

Most of the products of Bitmain, one of the biggest rig makers in China, are sold out, according the company’s website.

A sales manager at Jiangsu Haifanxin Technology, a rig merchant, said prices on the second-hand market have jumped 50% to 60% over the past year, while prices of new equipment more than doubled. High-end, second-hand mining machines were quoted around $5,000.

“It’s natural if you look at how much bitcoin has risen,” said the manager, who identified himself on by his surname Li.

The cryptocurrency surge is affecting who is able to mine.

The increasing cost of investment is eliminating smaller players, said Raymond Yuan, founder of Atlas Mining, which owns one of China’s biggest mining business.

“Institutional investors benefit from both large scale and proficiency in management whereas retail investors who couldn’t keep up will be weeded out,” said Yuan, whose company has invested over $500 million in cryptocurrency mining and plans to keep investing heavily.

Many of the larger players growing their mining operations are based outside of China, often in North America and the Middle East, said Wayne Zhao, chief operating officer of crypto research company TokenInsight.

“China used to have low electricity costs as one core advantage, but as the bitcoin price rises now, that has gone,” he said.

Zhao said that while previously bitcoin mining in China used to account for as much as 80% of the world’s total, it now accounted for around 50%.

(Reporting by Samuel Shen and Alun John; Editing by Vidya Ranganathan and William Mallard)

Continue Reading
Editorial & Advertiser disclosureOur website provides you with information, news, press releases, Opinion and advertorials on various financial products and services. This is not to be considered as financial advice and should be considered only for information purposes. We cannot guarantee the accuracy or applicability of any information provided with respect to your individual or personal circumstances. Please seek Professional advice from a qualified professional before making any financial decisions. We link to various third party websites, affiliate sales networks, and may link to our advertising partners websites. Though we are tied up with various advertising and affiliate networks, this does not affect our analysis or opinion. When you view or click on certain links available on our articles, our partners may compensate us for displaying the content to you, or make a purchase or fill a form. This will not incur any additional charges to you. To make things simpler for you to identity or distinguish sponsored articles or links, you may consider all articles or links hosted on our site as a partner endorsed link.

Call For Entries

Global Banking and Finance Review Awards Nominations 2021
2021 Awards now open. Click Here to Nominate

Latest Articles

The Beaconsoft story and introducing its one-of-a-kind digital campaign intelligence platform 4 The Beaconsoft story and introducing its one-of-a-kind digital campaign intelligence platform 5
Interviews18 hours ago

The Beaconsoft story and introducing its one-of-a-kind digital campaign intelligence platform

By Nigel Bridges, founding CEO of Beaconsoft Limited What were you doing prior to setting up Beaconsoft? Before setting up...

Top 8 Tax Scams to Watch Out For 6 Top 8 Tax Scams to Watch Out For 7
Finance1 day ago

Top 8 Tax Scams to Watch Out For

It is tax time and that means finding the best way to file your taxes and to get a refund...

Hisham Itani and Resource Group Recognized in the 2020 Global Banking & Finance Awards® 8 Hisham Itani and Resource Group Recognized in the 2020 Global Banking & Finance Awards® 9
Technology1 day ago

Hisham Itani and Resource Group Recognized in the 2020 Global Banking & Finance Awards®

Global Banking & Finance Review has awarded Hisham Itani the Chairman and CEO of Resource Group, Technology CEO of the...

Euro zone business activity shrank in January as lockdowns hit services 10 Euro zone business activity shrank in January as lockdowns hit services 11
Business2 days ago

Euro zone business activity shrank in January as lockdowns hit services

By Jonathan Cable LONDON (Reuters) – Economic activity in the euro zone shrank markedly in January as lockdown restrictions to...

Volkswagen's profit halves, but deliveries recovering 12 Volkswagen's profit halves, but deliveries recovering 13
Business2 days ago

Volkswagen’s profit halves, but deliveries recovering

BERLIN (Reuters) – Volkswagen reported a nearly 50% drop in its 2020 adjusted operating profit on Friday but said car...

Global chip shortage hits China's bitcoin mining sector 14 Global chip shortage hits China's bitcoin mining sector 15
Business2 days ago

Global chip shortage hits China’s bitcoin mining sector

By Samuel Shen and Alun John SHANGHAI/HONG KONG (Reuters) – A global chip shortage is choking the production of machines...

Iran's oil exports rise 'significantly' despite sanctions, minister says 16 Iran's oil exports rise 'significantly' despite sanctions, minister says 17
Business2 days ago

Iran’s oil exports rise ‘significantly’ despite sanctions, minister says

DUBAI/LONDON (Reuters) – Iran’s oil exports have climbed in recent months and its sales of petroleum products to foreign buyers...

Nissan to source more UK batteries as part of Brexit deal 'opportunity' 18 Nissan to source more UK batteries as part of Brexit deal 'opportunity' 19
Business2 days ago

Nissan to source more UK batteries as part of Brexit deal ‘opportunity’

By Costas Pitas LONDON (Reuters) – Nissan will source more batteries from Britain to avoid tariffs on electric cars after...

Muted recovery for UK retailers in December ends worst year on record 20 Muted recovery for UK retailers in December ends worst year on record 21
Business2 days ago

Muted recovery for UK retailers in December ends worst year on record

By David Milliken and Andy Bruce LONDON (Reuters) – British retailers struggled to recover in December from a partial coronavirus...

Chinese phone maker Honor partners with key chip suppliers after Huawei split 22 Chinese phone maker Honor partners with key chip suppliers after Huawei split 23
Business2 days ago

Chinese phone maker Honor partners with key chip suppliers after Huawei split

By David Kirton SHENZHEN, China (Reuters) – Chinese budget phone maker Honor said on Friday it had signed partnerships with...

Newsletters with Secrets & Analysis. Subscribe Now