Australia’s corporate response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is being led by 563 people, whose identities and remuneration have been revealed in a brand-new comprehensive analysis of the nation’s boardrooms.
These individuals run Australia’s 100 largest companies and are the key decision-makers in the country’s corporate response to the greatest economic threat since the Great Depression.
The recently released Apollo Communications ASX-100 Board of Directors Report unpacks the pathways to success for the country’s most powerful business elite.
The report examines what skills our business leaders have to combat the greatest economic crisis in a century, what credentials they have to operate Australia’s most elite Boardrooms, and how independent they are.
As pressure mounts on large corporates through COVID-19 to satisfy competing demands from shareholders, regulators, customers and the broader community, Non-Executive Directors will require deft decision-making to protect their reputations.
Apollo Communications CEO, Adam Connolly, said that by ranking the market capitalisation of all 100 ASX-listed companies, the report examines which Boards and which industries are paid more or less than their market size dictates.
“When Board remuneration is ranked against company size, the top 10 best value boards in Australia are CSL, Newcrest Mining, Magellan Fin Group Limited, Coles Group, GPT Group, Afterpay Touch, Xero Limited, Sydney Airport, the a2 Milk Company and Sonic Healthcare,” Mr Connolly commented.
“In contrast, the top 10 highest remuneration-to-market-cap ratio boards in Australia are Virgin Money UK, AMP, Resmed, Bank of Queensland, Link Group, Star Entertainment Group, Soul Pattinson, Worley Parsons, James Hardie and Challenger.”
“In some cases, individuals sit on four ASX-listed Boards simultaneously, while others have served for up to 45 years on one board, when contemporary governance guidelines suggest the maximum tenure should be no more than nine years.”
Mr Connolly noted that one interesting outcome of Australia’s economic engagement with the world is the rise of the Fly-In-Fly-Out (FIFO) Board Director – with one in five of Australia’s ASX-100 Directors living offshore, and either phoning in for Board discussions or attending in person.
“In a world physically shut down by the Coronavirus, telecommuting for Board directors could become commonplace,” he suggests.
Australia’s 100 largest ASX-listed companies are worth a collective $1.7 trillion, employ up to three million workers, and are the engine room of the Australian economy – helping drive economic growth, and in some cases social change.
Although the 563 Non-Executive Directors are well-paid at a collective $176 million a year, Mr Connolly said that they put their own personal reputations on the line by agreeing to serve on our nation’s largest boards, and also expose themselves to potential financial liability if things go wrong.
“Non-Executive Directors are paid just 0.01 per cent annually of the market capitalisation of the ASX-companies they oversee, suggesting they provide fair value for the responsibility they take on,” he stated.
Some key findings from the report include:
HIGH-LEVEL FINDINGS – Australia’s ‘563-club’ of professional directors is paid a collective $176 million a year, or $1.76 million per company on average. These annual Board fees represent 0.01 per cent of the overall market value of the companies they oversee, suggesting they provide good value for money. Australia’s top 100 ASX-listed companies are worth a collective $1.7 trillion, or $17.3 billion each on average, and come from 19 distinct industry ‘sectors’.
BEST PAYING BOARDS – The best paying Boards in Australia are not necessarily the largest. They are: BHP (3rd by market cap), Resmed (51st by market cap), Macquarie (7th by market cap), Rio Tinto (12th by market cap) and NAB (5th by market cap).
HIGHEST PAID BOARD DIRECTORS – The report outlines that Gordon Cairns is Australia’s best paid Non-Executive Board director with earnings of $1.8 million from Directorships on Woolworths, Origin Energy and Macquarie, followed by Lindsay Maxsted ($1.6 million) from his service with Westpac, Transurban and BHP. Although Mike Wilkins earned $2 million through his directorships with AMP, QBE and Medibank, this was distorted by his short-term tenure as Acting AMP CEO.
BEST PAID SINGLE BOARD SEATS – The three highest-paid single-board directorships are Rio Tinto (Simon Thompson $1,601,760), AMP (Mike Wilkins at $1,516,000) and BHP (Ken MacKenzie at $1,331,520). Ironically, while BHP is Australia’s third-largest company in Australia, neither AMP or Rio Tinto ranks in the top 10, raising questions about why their Chairmanships are so lucrative compared to larger companies.
DIRECTOR PAY GAP – Despite corporate Australia being a public supporter of gender equality, male directors earn 20 per cent on average more than their female colleagues ($263,144 vs $218,696), for no obvious reason. The ‘director pay gap’ narrows at the Chair level, with male Chairs earning 14.7 per cent more than female Chairs on average ($502,516 versus $437,990).
BEST VALUE BOARDS – Global biotech company, CSL, and gold miner, Newcrest Mining, provide the best value Boards in Australia. At $116 billion in market capitalisation, CSL is ranked second largest by size among Australia’s top 100 ASX-listed companies, yet 52nd in terms of Board fees paid, at $1.69 million. Newcrest Mining has a market capitalisation of $24 billion, ranking it 16th by size but 66th in terms of Board fees paid. The next best value boards are Magellan Fin Group Limited, Coles Group, GPT Group, Afterpay Touch, Xero Limited, Sydney Airport, The a2 Milk Company and Sonic Healthcare, when Board remuneration is ranked against company size.
HIGHEST REMUNERATION-TO-MARKET-CAP RATIO – The 10 highest remuneration-to-market-cap ratio boards in Australia are Virgin Money UK, AMP, Resmed, Bank of Queensland, Link Group, Star Entertainment Group, Soul Pattinson, Worley Parsons, James Hardie and Challenger when their company size is ranked against what their Non-Executive Directors are paid.
TENURE – Ramsay Health Care’s Michael Siddle is Australia’s longest-serving Board director at 45 years, five times the 9-year limit set by the UK Corporate Governance Code. Three other Ramsay directors also made the Top 10 list; Peter Evans (29 years), Kerry Roxburgh (22 years and 4 months) and Rod McGeoch (22 years and 4 months). The only female is JB Hi-Fi’s Beth Laughton, having served 18 years and 5 months.
BEST VALUE INDUSTRIES – Six of the 19 ASX-listed industries pay their Boards less than their market size dictate. They are Pharmaceutical companies, Food and Staples Retailing, Telecommunications Services, Retailing, Banks and Transportation companies.
LEAST VALUE INDUSTRIES – In comparison, 13 of Australia’s 19 industry sectors pay their Boards more than their market size would dictate. They are Commercial & Professional Services, Utilities, Food Beverage & Tobacco, Health Care Equipment & Services, Media & Entertainment, Diversified Financials, Insurance, Consumer Services, Software & Services, Energy, Materials (Mining and Resources), Real Estate, Energy and Capital Goods.
AGE – The oldest ASX-100 Board Director is Crown Resorts’ Geoff Dixon at 80 and the youngest TPG Telecom’s Shane Teoh at 33. Following the retirement of Geoff Dixon from the board of Crown Resorts (announced just prior to this report being written), the oldest became Goodman Group’s Ian Ferrier at 79. The median age is 60, meaning the tail-end of the Baby Boomer generation retains oversight of our corporate institutions.
UNIVERSITIES – Perhaps surprisingly, the generalist Bachelor of Arts is the most common degree for professional Non-Executive Directors, compared to a Bachelor of Science for CEOs. The University of Sydney is the ‘Directors Club’, educating more ASX-100 Board members than any other, followed by the University of Melbourne. This compares to the University of NSW, which has educated more senior CEOs than any other, making it the ‘Power University’.
‘Apollo Communications ASX-100 Board of Directors Report’ can be found online here.