Sunday, 5 April 2009

Some random Sunday evening thoughts

1. I think there's a danger of learning entirely the wrong lessons about remuneration from the financial crisis. The bottom line IMO is that incentives have not worked. I don't think most people believe that bankers mindlessly did the wrong thing because that was how they would benefit personally. The problem is that they believed in what they were doing, and as such didn't know what they were doing. Therefore seeking to resolve this problem by redesigning incentive schemes I think is missing the fundamental point.

There's an implication in here somewhere that 'good performance' at a senior level is both measurable and identifiable in advance. I'm not at all confident about the former (because of the inability of individuals to control organisations - so what exactly are you going to measure?) and I have doubts about the latter. But even supposing that you can come out with some medium- to long-term targets, why not just contractually oblige bankers to hit them as part of the job, rather than pay them more to do what they should be doing? If you still want to try and link to organisational performance at least that way if they do really badly you can sack them, rather than just paying them less. At present exec pay seems to work simply to pay out a lot more when the whole market is doing well and slacken off during market dips.

2. I've noticed a tendency most often (but not exclusively) amongst Righties, to dismiss the G20 protestors and similar as 'emotional'. Whatever you might think about last week's protests, as a pejorative term I think 'emotional' is pretty weak. It implies that there is a distinction between those reacting emotionally, and those with cool heads responding rationally. But there's a pretty convincing argument that we need our emotions in order to make decisions and are part of being rational. Therefore to label those you don't agree with as 'emotional' to me suggests a belief in the split between mind and body.

3. Post-shareholder-centric governance. It's on the way I tell ya. Look at the G20 blurb on remuneration, shareholders are relegated to being just another stakeholder:
firms to publicly disclose clear, comprehensive, and timely information about compensation. Stakeholders, including shareholders, should be adequately informed on a timely basis on compensation policies to exercise effective monitoring.

1 comment:

Charlie Marks said...

1. There must come a point at which wage increases and bonuses seem meaningless, and therefore their effectiveness as incentives will decrease? I like the idea of a maximum wage, tying execs to the wages of ordinary workers.

2. Right. And the wild swings on the markets are not emotional? Certainly not rational...

3. Time to revive Will Hutton's proposals on stakeholding? I think so.