“I would once again recognize the incredible contribution our people have made this year, especially our customer-facing people who have worked tirelessly,” said Ms. Livingstone.
“I would repeat it again when you look at the overall result. The available remuneration for executive employees is reduced by a total of 19 percent. ”
However, some subordinate CBA employees did not buy the statement. Several questions suggested that they are annoyed with offering a 1.5 percent wage increase when competing banks are offering 3 percent, even though CBA has outperformed its peers this year.
One employee asked why CBA justified its low wage offer in relation to the consumer price index and slow wage growth across the economy, but rated more executives versus competitors and employee engagement.
Another employee described the 1.5 percent offer as “incomprehensible” and said it felt “worthless” as they worked tirelessly to support customers in the pandemic crisis. Another asked why the board felt that after a very difficult year, they were not entitled to 3 percent like their competitors.
Ms. Livingstone said the bank and FSU are still in the process of negotiating the EA, which covered not only compensation but many other topics as well, and the bank wants to recognize the efforts of the staff during this challenging year.
The bank avoided a strike against its compensation report and a controversial proposal to give CBA CEO Matt Comyn $ 1.6 million through the skin – with 78.7 percent and 78.5 percent of shareholders voting “for”, respectively .
In order to achieve a “strike”, a resolution must attract “against” votes of 25 percent or more.
The CBA chairman also said the bank hopes to roll back its dividend payout to around three-quarters of its earnings after regulators restricted it to help banks cover the cost of the coronavirus crisis, but she added it was too early to say exactly when this may occur.
It reached out to shareholders who saw their final dividend declined 31 percent from the once-reliable dividend payer as the virus crisis hit and regulators put in place measures to curtail payout measures and strengthen capital stability.
Ms. Livingstone said she hoped the bank could return to its long-term policy of paying out 70 to 80 percent of its net profits to shareholders. However, she said it had been prevented this year by the Australian regulator, which said banks should withhold at least 50 percent of their profits as pandemic losses pile up.
“We hope to continue this policy,” she said, but added that the timing of the restoration is uncertain. Dividend decisions “are made every six months in the context of the circumstances at the time.”
Ms. Livingstone also defended the bank’s governance record, saying she made great strides in addressing governance, culture and risk management (GRCA) issues at the bank’s first virtual general meeting on Tuesday.
Ms. Livingstone, who chaired the CBA during the AUSTRAC scandal, spoke of the significant progress the bank and its employees have made since the regulator fined it $ 1 billion in 2018.
“We have made significant strides in implementing the recommendations of the APRA 2018 regulatory investigation and are now over three-quarters of our remedial action plan milestones,” she said.
“We all learn as we go through”
She hosted the virtual meeting from a room in the CBA headquarters in Sydney. Some directors also attended the bank while others were connected from home.
While shareholders monitored a live Internet stream, the meeting began with the bank outlining the novel electronic voting procedures, which were conducted through a separate window in the web browser. Shareholders were told they could ask two questions – but they were limited to 512 characters.
The Australian Association of Shareholders said some shareholders had no access to the internet and criticized that voting was only available online.
Ms. Livingstone said the bank tried to provide all the options it could in the circumstances and “we all learn as we go through”.
Ms. Livingstone opened the AGM by noting that the bank had made more than $ 730 million in refunds to customers since 2015, and an independent auditor of her progress in resolving her GCRA issues said she had a material one Change in attitudes and culture within the bank noted compared to two years ago.
“It was also found that in many ways the bank was unrecognizable to the institution described in the investigation report,” said Ms. Livingstone.
The remuneration has to evolve
In her opening speeches, the chairman also addressed the compensation agreements for her executives, which are listed under items three and four of the agenda and who narrowly avoided going on strike after winning around 78 percent of the voting rights representatives.
Ms. Livingstone said the bank’s compensation framework needs to be further developed to address the “strategic challenges”.
“Our goals in making these changes are to: attract and retain exceptional talent, meet the spirit of anticipated regulatory changes, and align management incentives more closely with shareholder experience.”
Late Tuesday, the National Secretary of the Financial Sectors Union, Julia Angrisano, said it was unfair for the bank to freeze employees’ salaries or offer them a maximum raise of 2 percent while giving the CEO $ 1.6 million in shares and 14 shares percentage wage increase.
“The enormous bonuses paid to senior management should be accompanied by fair and equitable pay for employees,” she said.
CBA shareholders outraged executive pay changes in 2016 when the bank hit its first strike after shareholders turned down a plan to introduce perceived “soft targets” to get bonuses for the .49 percent of voting proxies opposed to the compensation proposal Top brass set.
The showdown between the board of directors and shareholders first emerged after it was reported that ISS – the advisor of choice for many passive funds and U.S. institutions – proxy voting against the compensation report and a 1.6 million share award . USD addressed to CEO Matt Comyn. His concerns included CBA’s intention to make the payment even if it was declined.
However, over the last month, the bank received recommendations in favor of the two items from governance experts Ownership Matters, proxy advisors CGI Glass Lewis, the Australian Superannuation Council of Investors, AustralianSuper and the Australian Shareholders Association.
Another shareholder in the CBA meeting was upset that he was holding his general meeting at the same time as Telstra, given that the retail shareholders were two of the most widely used companies.
Ms. Livingstone replied that the meeting time had been set two years ago but that she would try to avoid major clashes in the future.
With some shareholder questions focused on whether CBA is fulfilling its social license in terms of lending to industries contributing to the climate crisis, Ms. Livingstone pointed out that CBA is achieving its goal of producing renewable energy for 100 percent of its Australian electricity needs in 10 Years to procure the goal.
“This enabled us to reduce our emissions and save costs,” she said. “Playing our role in the transition is an increasing priority for the board.”
She also pointed out products that encourage customers to cut emissions and increase climate resilience, including loans related to sustainability, cashbacks to customers with solar panels installed in their homes, and brokerage of nearly 9.5 billion climate bonds U.S. dollar.
She pointed to the CBA’s policy of ending lending to companies with thermal costs by 2030 and the “general intention to reduce our exposure to oil”.
In his opening address, CEO Matt Comyn drew attention to the steps the bank has been taking to assist clients in the virus crisis, including providing more than 250,000 borrowers and approving $ 875 million loans to over 9,400 SMEs the state loan program.
“Thousands of families have benefited from these measures. Thousands of companies have been able to keep their doors open and employ their people, ”said Comyn.
“While the challenges facing the nation are far from over, Commonwealth Bank’s 42,000 employees continue to serve our customers and communities, even though some have worked under difficult circumstances.”
On Tuesday, the CBA announced that the number of deferred loans fell from 174,000 in August to 129,000, with the number of frozen loans falling 26 percent in September. The bank said there was an increased number of Victorian loans, but expected the total to continue to improve over the next month.
Mr Comyn also pressed the “Team Australia” button, saying that Australia’s largest bank would “play an important role in Australia’s economic recovery over the next few years”.
“The federal budget’s measures to support and increase employment should help give employers and employees security and confidence so that they can plan for the future.
“We also know that some Australians and businesses will still need support.”
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