Look inside for ways to quell these rebellions

Ruth Mortimer

There is a new set of protesters on the warpath, challenging what they see as excessive executive bonuses and pay deals. This time it isn’t a bunch of guys living in tents as part of Occupy London. The new critics are corporate shareholders.

Aviva chief executive Andrew Moss stepped down this week after shareholder fury about the remuneration levels of the insurance company’s top executives. Shareholders of the business have seen a 30% drop in the share price over the last year – perhaps unsurprising in the context of recession – and were unhappy at seeing high levels of pay awarded to Aviva’s top managers.

It appears that Moss was slated to receive a £1.2m bonus, equal to 120% of his salary as part of the firm’s remuneration report, while the UK chief executive Trevor Matthews was awarded a £45,000 bonus, although he only joined the board on December 2, 2011. Wow.

Aviva is not the only brand to find itself at the receiving end of shareholder fury. Barclays has seen the same phenomenon in the past couple of weeks. At its annual general meeting, a whopping 32% of shareholder votes failed to support the bank’s remuneration package.

Meanwhile, the newspaper group Trinity Mirror has seen its chief executive Sly Bailey depart after she refused to take a significant cut to her £1.7m pay packet. The company’s investors were unwilling to accept this state of affairs, leading to Bailey stepping down after 10 years at the helm of the business.

There’s a new set of protesters and this time it isn’t a bunch of guys living in tents… these critics are corporate shareholders

No industry is immune. In what some are calling a “boardroom coup” at AstraZeneca, the chief executive and chairman of the pharmaceutical business are retiring earlier than expected. While the precise reasons are unclear, it is notable that there have been shareholder grumblings about performance for some time.

Which brings me neatly to how the FTSE100 companies need to improve their operations and please shareholders. Today’s investors are unafraid to be vocally critical of executives, openly tackling their performance and investigating their pay packets. They will not meekly accept that those people running the business are up to the job, no matter what their past successes.

So our cover story on how the FTSE100 are failing to take advantage of digital channels, especially social and mobile media, is particularly relevant. At a time when chief executives have shareholders snapping at their heels, corporates need to be taking advantage of digital media’s reach. By neglecting the full range of interactive channels available to them, companies that desperately need to satisfy investors are missing opportunities to placate this audience. Forget Occupy London, brands must look closer to home to discover their most voracious critics in 2012.

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