Gordon Cairns Image: You Tube, uploaded by Grace Papers, Nov 29, 2018

If you’re wondering what the board members and chairs of Australia’s biggest companies are paid, now we know, thanks to a new report that examined 563 people who sit on the board of Australia’s 100 largest companies.

It’s a detailed report and contains information such as what chairs and individual directorships are paid. In the same way as applies to most other parts of the economy female board members and chairs are paid significantly lower amounts than their male counterparts, “for no obvious reason” the report authors say.

Overall, though, the good news is that the report, by Apollo Communications, concludes that we’re getting good value for money.

Annual board fees represent just a fraction – 0.01 per cent – of the overall market value of the companies they oversee, amounting to a collective $176 million a year or $1.76 million for each company on average.

Highest paid board member of all is Gordon Cairns who each year earns $1.8 million from directorships on Woolworths, Origin Energy and Macquarie Group.

His background includes advisor with McKinsey & Co, chief executive of Lion Nathan and managing director of PepsiCo.

Next on the list of top earners is Lindsay Maxsted with annual earnings of $1.6 million from his service with Westpac, Transurban and BHP. Mike Wilkins earned an unusually high $2 million with AMP, QBE and Medibank, thanks to a short term stint as acting CEO of AMP.

In detail the report says the three best 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).

And as for the glass gender ceiling, it’s strong and impervious as ever.

“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 versus $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 ($502,516popp versus $437,990).”

According to the report some sectors offer better value than others. Board members in materials, energy and utilities sectors are among the most overpaid with the materials and energy sectors are ranked an equal second for overpaying their boards, while utilities is ranked fifth.

Pharmaceutical and biotech companies are among the best value boards. Global biotech company, CSL, shares the title of best value board in Australia alongside gold miner, Newcrest Mining.

Other ASX listed industries that pay their boards less than their market size dictates are food and staples retailing, telecommunications services, retailing, banks and transportation companies.

“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,” Apollo Communications CEO Adam Connolly said.

“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.

The best paid boards are not necessarily associated with the biggest companies. BHP, while 3rd by market cap, is the top paying board, followed by Resmed (51st by market cap), Macquarie (7th by market cap), Rio Tinto (12th by market cap) and NAB (5th by market cap).

Australia’s highest paid individual board member is Gordon Cairns, who holds his non-executive positions with Woolworths, Origin Energy and Macquarie Group. He earns $1.8 million from these positions.

And at the more pedestrian level of regular jobs, there’s signs of life stirring once more, after the shock of Covid.

Edge Environment has recruited Ashleigh Gay as head of sustainability.

Ms Gay joins the Australian consultancy after a stint in the UK where she jointly ran the sustainability practice of Radley Yeldar.

She’s also worked in sustainability roles at InfraBuild (formerly LIBERTY OneSteel), an Australian manufacturer and supplier of structural and reinforcing steel.

She will be based in Sydney for the new role.

After acting as Hunter Water’s chief executive officer, Darren Cleary has been announced as its new managing director.

He was formerly the chief investment officer at the organisation where he lead Hunter Water’s $600 million infrastructure program and coordinated Hunter Water’s Love Water drought campaign.

Schneider Electric has the promoted James Hunt to vice president of Power Systems across the Pacific region.

He was formerly general manager for solutions sales at the global company, which specialises in digital transformation of energy management and automation in homes, buildings, data centres, infrastructure and industries.

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