FTSE chief executives' median pay 'down almost 20%'

Sir Martin SorrellImage copyright Getty Images Image caption Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive of advertising agency WPP, has often been the target of shareholder criticism over his pay packet

The median pay for chief executives of FTSE 100 companies has fallen by almost 20% over the past year, according to accountancy firm Deloitte.

Median pay - a figure representing the pay rate half way between the lowest and highest paid executive - dropped from £4.3m in 2016 to £3.5m this year.

Deloitte said policies introduced to limit bosses' pay appeared to be working.

This year's annual general meetings were "calmer than expected" it said.

"The fall in executive pay demonstrates that remuneration committees are making a real effort to address shareholder concerns," said Stephen Cahill, vice chairman at Deloitte.

"This is the first cycle where the legislation introduced in 2013 and primarily voted on during the 2014 AGMs will have taken effect.

"It seems the current legislation is working."

'One off'

The accountancy firm's remuneration report also said there had been a reduction in bosses' bonuses and pension allowances for new appointees.

The report tallies with recently published research from the High Pay Centre[1] which suggested the average pay of FTSE bosses had fallen 17% this year.

But the director of the High Pay Centre, Stefan Stern, suggested public pressure had led to what may turn out to be a "one off" fall in pay, and that this year average executive pay had been skewed by high-profile pay cuts for one or two individuals.

New rules in 2013 obliged firms to provide greater transparency over the pay of their top executives in relation to other employees and to hold a binding shareholder vote on pay every three years.

However, discontent over high executive pay has continued.

Prime Minister Theresa May has promised further reforms to policies governing remuneration, to tackle what she called an "irrational, unhealthy and growing gap" between what bosses and workers are paid.

This year the High Pay Centre said the average pay ratio between FTSE 100 bosses and the average pay package of their employees has fallen to 129:1 - meaning that for every £1 the average employee is paid, their chief executive gets £129.

In 2015 the ratio was 148:1.

Investor criticism at AGMs this spring was more muted than expected.

Deloitte's vice chairman said he did not believe further intervention was necessary.

"With many companies renewing their policies this year we are seeing further moves to incorporate the best practice provisions shareholders now expect," said Mr Cahill.

"The current framework is working well and we do not believe further regulation is needed to move things forward."...

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US to review China intellectual property policies

Counterfeit items seized in 2008 (file picture)Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Intellectual property theft is estimated to cost the US up to $600bn a year

The US has formally launched an investigation into China's policies regarding intellectual property.

The top US trade official, Robert Lighthizer, said his office had "determined that these critical issues merit a thorough investigation".

The move was expected after President Donald Trump asked Mr Lighthizer to review China's practices.

China has voiced "serious concern" over the inquiry, which could result in US trade sanctions.

The US has been concerned about these matters for some time, said Gary Hufbauer, from the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.

The annual cost to the US economy from counterfeit goods, pirated software and theft of trade secrets has been estimated at up to $600bn (£470bn).

On Friday the US said[1] it planned to look into hacking and reports that the Chinese government is steering investment into US companies in key industries as a way to gain access to new technology.

Officials will gather comments and hold a hearing in October as part of the so-called Section 301 investigation.

What happens next?

Mr Hufbauer said it's a "foregone conclusion" that the US will find evidence of unfair practices, but it's not clear how the Trump administration will proceed after that.

It could bring a complaint to the World Trade Organization, or decide to take action unilaterally, which would be faster.

Penalties might be targeted against individual companies, or more wide-ranging, he added, which will shape China's reaction.

On Tuesday, China's commerce ministry warned:"If the US side takes actions that impair the mutual trade relations, disregarding the facts and disrespecting multilateral trade rules, China will not sit idle."...

References

  1. ^ said (ustr.gov)

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How much will you give me for my false teeth?

Gold teethImage copyright Getty Images

If pawning the family silver signals a desperate need for cash, then what does handing over your own teeth say about your financial situation?

A set of gold false teeth was one of the more unlikely items offered to pawnbroker Nathan Finch.

"It wasn't the most pleasant of transactions but we did the loan," he says.

Jewellery is most common pledge as security for a loan, but during 30 years in the pawnbroking trade he says he has witnessed some more creative propositions from customers.

"Everything from designer handbags to Mont Blanc pens, and a lot of signed memorabilia;we even had people offer a racehorse and a fishing trawler," says Mr Finch, managing director of Pickwick Pawnbrokers.

"You never know what is going to come through the door.It can be a very small diamond ring in someone's hand or it can be a great statue under their arm."

image

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionA pawnbroker reveals some of the unusual items in his vault

Through the thick, alarmed doors, in the cramped vault under his High Street pawnbroking shop, Mr Finch pulls out works of art, designer handbags, and even a Louis Vuitton dog collar.

His experience is not unique.Across the UK, various pawnbrokers are specialists in Rolex watches, luxury cars or antiques.

So why does anyone in possession of an Aston Martin or an expensive timepiece need to walk into a pawnbrokers' shop to seek a loan?

"The typical reason that a customer might use a pawnbroker is almost exclusively cashflow.It is not that they don't have assets, or that they don't have wealth, it is just that they don't have that money at that particular time.

"It could be school fees, it could be extra spending money for a holiday, it could be a crisis loan, like getting your car back on the road.It is a cycle of the need being driven by a crisis or some luxury spending."

Research suggests that day-to-day spending, and a need to pay utility bills are high on the list of customers' need for quick cash.

"Pawnbrokers tend to get people through a short-term cashflow issue and then the item is redeemed.I am happy and they are happy," says Mr Finch.


How does pawnbroking work?

  • Customer "pledges" an item, such as a gold ring for a set period of time, usually six months
  • Pawnbroker gives 50% to 60% of the item's value as a cash loan
  • Customer pays 7% to 8% interest every month
  • An item can be redeemed during the loan period by paying back the original loan and any interest up to that point
  • If the customer cannot repay the loan at the end of the deal the pawnbroker sells the item and returns any surplus to the customer

More information is available from the National Pawnbrokers Association.Consumer advice on pawnbroking is available from Citizens Advice and the Money Advice Service[1][2][3]


This happiness may, of course, be short-lived.Failing to pay back the loan, and the interest charged on top, means saying goodbye to the valuable possessions.

Even if the item is redeemed - and in most cases it is - then using a pawnbroker can be a relatively expensive way to borrow, says the Money Advice Service.

"You can usually only borrow a percentage of the value of the item you want to pawn.So if, for example, you have some jewellery worth £200 you might only be able to borrow £100."

Interest is typically higher than a standard bank loan but normally less than a payday lender.But unlike those loans, anyone with a poor credit history can access pawnbroking services as long as they have an item to pledge.

The Money Advice Service suggests people who want to pawn should shop around for the best deal, and also:

  • Choose a company that is a member of the National Pawnbrokers' Association, which has a code of conduct for members
  • Ensure the company is regulated by the FCA
  • Understand the value of the item you are pawning
  • Be aware that a complaint can be raised with the lender and, if unresolved, to the Financial Ombudsman Service

There were only 44 new cases dealt with by the Financial Ombudsman about pawnbroking in the last financial year - and only 30% were upheld in the complainants' favour.In the three months from April, fewer than 30 cases were recorded, registered as a blank on the ombudsman's latest data[4].

That suggests either a high level of satisfaction among customers or a lack of awareness of the ombudsman - or both.

It certainly compares favourably to the wider consumer credit market, which saw complaints rise by 89% in the year to April, following a 40% rise in the year before that.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The industry has a rich history, as this image of a Georgian pawnbroker shows

Complaints have not mushroomed but nor has the industry.While the unsecured credit market - including overdrafts and credit cards - has grown rapidly in the last few years, prompting fears about a consumer debt bubble, the pawnbroking sector remains relatively niche.

Just 4% of the adult population use a pawnbroker, according to Ray Perry, chief executive of the National Pawnbrokers' Association (NPA).

Customers are more likely to be women than men (it is a 60/40 split), aged 25 to 40-years-old and in a job.

Stricter regulation has thinned the number of pawnbrokers.All businesses with a licence to offer credit to consumers have had to be reauthorised by the regulator - the Financial Conduct Authority.The process was long and intense, and many pulled out of the industry as a result.

The NPA had more than 200 members beforehand, now it has 150.The combined loan book of their 1,200 retail stores is £700m, having peaked at about £850m, although the falling price of gold has played a part in this reduction.

E-pawn

Nathan Finch also points to challenges facing the industry from the new technology and convenience used by money-lending competitors.

"A lot of young people do not want to bring in an item.A lot of business and financing is done on apps nowadays.

"Pawnbrokers are developing technology to be able to try to keep up with that.The initial deposit of the item will always be physical, but the way in which we can transfer money and communicate with customers is modernising.

"I think we shall compete with lenders for another 3,000 years."

He says "another" 3,000 years, because the history of pawnbroking stretches back three millennia.

The Chinese were pawning their goods back then for shipbuilding, the cost of war, and exploration.

Modern pawnbroking began in northern Italy in the middle ages, with the split of the Medici and their family crest between the bankers and the pawnbrokers, with the latter taking the three balls sign - a symbol that survives to this day....

References

  1. ^ National Pawnbrokers Association (www.thenpa.com)
  2. ^ Citizens Advice (www.citizensadvice.org.uk)
  3. ^ Money Advice Service (www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk)
  4. ^ ombudsman's latest data (www.financial-ombudsman.org.uk)

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Why finding large women's shoe sizes can be a problem

Woman applying an adhesive bandage on a wound on her heelImage copyright Getty Images Image caption Finding women's shoes that fit can be a challenge if you take a larger size

The UK footwear chain Jones Bootmaker was saved from administration earlier this year but its new owners are still closing a number of its stores - which is a setback for women with larger feet and few options.

And I should know;as Jones is one of the few High Street staples to offer a larger than average range of big sizes, my local branch was the first port of call to accommodate my own size nines.

Now it lies empty, the latest instalment in a troubled footwear history that sentenced me to boy's lace-ups at school and overhanging toes in any sandal since.

With independent shops rarely stocking shoes above size seven and larger brand outlets offering merely one or two options - if I'm lucky - finding suitable shoes remains the Holy Grail.

Since the 1970s, the average shoe size of men and women in the UK has increased by two sizes, from a size eight to 10 and four to six, respectively, according to research from the College of Podiatry.

Image caption The footwear industry is not keeping up with changing demands, says Dr Jill Halstead-Rastrick

"When size five was average the industry would think providing two sizes above to a seven was just about the fringe of adequate for women, but now that it's a six, we should be seeing far more eights and even nines as standard," says the college's Dr Jill Halstead-Rastrick.

She believes the footwear industry is not moving with the times to accommodate a nation that is taller and heavier and so by evolutionary logic, has larger feet, and warns this is an issue that could be a time bomb for the next generation.

"Increased weight splays the feet and we are seeing a lot of adults wearing shoes that are too narrow or small.This is only going to become more of a problem as we continue to grow in stature - we need a wider variety of larger sizes."

It's a familiar narrative to Laura West of the Society of Shoe Fitters.

She estimates around 30% of inquiries she receives are from girls aged around 12 unable to find school shoes above a size eight, and who having to wear boys shoes as a result.Irrespective of any aesthetics this is having serious repercussions for girls' foot health, she argues.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The lack of proper shoe sizes can lead to hip, knee and ankle and neck problems later in life

"Boys' shoes will fit differently, and ill-fitting footwear does change [girls] physiology.

"If feet hurt you shift your weight unnaturally when you walk and this wears out other joints and tendons leading to hip, knee and ankle and neck problems later on."

West believes the problem stems from the demise of British manufacturing in the 1980s, when many UK brands shifted production overseas to cut costs.This has meant less research into foot development and a deeper disconnect between the manufacturer and consumer needs, she says.

"When we produced shoes here we could run short production lines including larger sizes at little extra cost, but in an overseas factory you have to order in far greater numbers, which becomes cost prohibitive.

"Independent shops can't compete with low cost imports - and they would have been the ones to feedback the inability to supply certain items like larger sizes to their manufacturers' representatives.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The extra cost in making larger shoe sizes has also discouraged some manufacturers

"Now consumers trawl from High Street chain to supermarket and the staff have little involvement;it is self-service mass market approach and an 'if we've got it you can have it - if not tough' mentality, so manufacturers don't have a clue."

A focus on fashion over quality has compounded the problem for many UK women's shoe makers.By contrast the men's market has benefitted from higher-priced items such as Goodyear welted shoes which enjoy a healthy export trade to Europe, Asia and US.

"The price commanded for them makes UK production profitable," says British Footwear Association chief executive John Saunders.

By contrast "most UK women's shoemakers were operating in the volume to mid-tier market," he says, and were hit hard in the late 20th Century by increasing Asian competition, retailers demanding a greater share of profits and consumers turning to cheaper shoes.

Image caption Switching UK shoe production to Asia has led to smaller shoe sizes, says Naomi Braithwaite

China now accounts for about 65% of shoes made worldwide, and with this production coming from a country where the average female shoe size is a UK three-and-half, this virtual monopoly has hit shoes sizes.

Former luxury shoe buyer Naomi Braithwaite, now a fashion marketing and branding lecturer at Nottingham Trent University, recalls how standard sizes of shoes at the company she worked for reduced after it switched production from Italy to China.

"Sample sizes were based on Chinese feet which are smaller boned and narrower.As well as this, many of the designers at the luxury end simply didn't like to see their shoes in bigger sizes as they didn't think they looked as beautiful as the more petite sizes."

The additional cost involved in producing larger sizes to cover the extra material and increased shipment weight is another deterrent for a somewhat already reluctant industry, she concedes.

Image caption Retailer Long Tall Sally says women's size 10 shoes now account for 30% of footwear sales

It's a gap in the market that Long Tall Sally, a specialist in fashion and footwear for tall women, has successfully exploited.Its shoe range starts at size seven and goes up to 13.

Making shoes above a size eight costs the firm about £5 extra a pair because of the extra material, and it also uses a bespoke 'last' - a three-dimensional foot shaped mould on which each shoe is made.

Yet it seems to be paying off with footwear growing from a 5% to 15% share of the total business.Size 10 is now its most popular size, representing 30% of footwear sales.

"Demand for larger size women's shoes has risen steadily," says Long Tall Sally's shoe buyer, Chris O'Shea.

The other option if you've larger feet, is to buy German.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Technology could allow personalised fittings - without the prohibitive prices of handmade shoes

"Germany is very much an exception - it has always had much better selection in larger size footwear and what they do well is shoes with quality, comfort and longevity'" says O'Shea.

While Germany still outsources production to Asia, many of its footwear brands retain head office, marketing and design in the country - with a consistent focus on function and quality over fashion.

It's why Dr Halstead-Rastrick often directs patients to German brands.But she says the industry could better use technology to provide more personalised fittings without the prohibitive prices that handmade shoes usually command.

"You can even scan and measure feet via a phone app now, so surely we can't be that far off a situation where we can send our measurements to companies and say, this is the shape of my foot can you make me something?"

Here's hoping change is afoot....

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One in 10 adults owns second home, says think tank

flat interior Image caption The number of landlords has risen significantly since 2002

As many as 5.2 million UK adults - or one in 10 - have bought or inherited a second home, according to research.

Think tank the Resolution Foundation said the number of multiple home owners grew by 30% between 2002 and 2014.

That figure includes buy-to-let landlords - counted as one owner even if they have multiple properties - as well as those who own separate properties to live in themselves.

At the other end of the scale, four in 10 adults own no property at all.

The foundation said the number of people without property had also risen over the 12-year period.

As a result, the study concluded that there was a growing gap between those who have property wealth and those who do not.

The government is already ploughing £60m a year[1] into rural and coastal communities that are most affected by second home ownership, such as Cornwall and Cumbria.

The money - raised from the Stamp Duty surcharge - supports first-time buyers.

Baby boomers

Those most likely to own a second home are baby-boomers, currently aged between 52 and 71.They also typically live in the south of England.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Cornwall has many second-home owners

"Contrary to the popular narrative, these second-home owners are rarely your typical middle-income worker shoring up savings, or ordinary retirees boosting pension income," said Laura Gardiner, senior policy analyst at the Resolution Foundation.

"They tend to be baby boomers who are very wealthy indeed relative to their peers, living in the south and east of England."

Those born since 1981 own just 3% of second homes, according to the report.

Stamp duty

Since April 2016 those buying second homes have been subject to higher rates of Stamp Duty in England and Wales, and higher Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) in Scotland.

In addition, landlords are no longer able to claim tax relief on all their mortgage payments.This change is being phased in between April 2017 and 2020.

It is not yet known to what extent such changes have led landlords to sell up.

Despite those clamp-downs, the Resolution Foundation would like the government to do more to end the property wealth gap.

"Policy makers should consider what more can be done to ensure that home ownership doesn't become the preserve of the wealthy for generations to come," said Ms Gardiner....

References

  1. ^ £60m a year (www.bbc.co.uk)
  2. ^ Buy-to-let slump after stamp duty changes (www.bbc.co.uk)
  3. ^ CML:Spare landlords more tax changes (www.bbc.co.uk)

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