Many of the nations top banking companies lag their counterparts in other industries when it comes to paying their board members in equity and salary, according to a recently released study of 200 companies.
The 12 banking firms in the study, conducted last year and released last week by the New York consulting firm Pearl Meyer & Partners, paid their board members an average of about $30,000 less each year than the other 188 organizations.
Unlike the other firms, the banking companies Bank of America Corp., Bank One Corp., the former Chase Manhattan Corp., First Union Corp., FleetBoston Financial Corp., the old J.P. Morgan & Co., KeyCorp, National City Corp. of Cleveland, PNC Financial Services Group Inc., SunTrust Banks Inc., U.S. Bancorp, and Wells Fargo & Co. also tended to pay board members a higher percentage of their wages in cash than in stock, the study found.
Members of the banking companies boards received 35% of their remuneration in stock, compared with 61% for the directors at the average company in the study.
The banks are not as aggressive in how they pay directors, said Steven E. Hall, the managing director of Pearl Meyer who oversaw the survey. They are a little bit slower in moving toward stock.
The banking companies tended to be smaller than the other companies in the study, which covered the largest public U.S. industrial and service organizations in 21 industries, including retail, health care, and auto manufacturing. Also, the banking companies stock prices have not increased as much as those of the other companies, Mr. Hall said.
On average, board members at the banking companies were paid $105,000 last year, while the average company paid its board members $138,747 last year, 4% more than a year earlier, according to the study.
Since 1995 the average directors compensation has increased 66%, mainly because of a rise in the value of their stocks, the study said.
Some banking companies, like the Chicago-based Bank One, are beginning to increase stock payments to board members. Each of the non-officer directors received an annual cash retainer of $60,000 and a grant of shares worth $30,000 last year, but this year the board members will get half their compensation from stock, the company said.
Bank Ones board met 10 times last year, and its members also served on four committees which met periodically. The chairperson of each committee received a retainer of $6,000, and the board members received a $1,000 fee for each meeting they attended. The companies in the study paid between $1,000 and $2,000 for members to attend meetings, Mr. Hall said.
Thomas Kelly, a spokesman for Bank One, said it is now splitting its board members compensation equally between stock and cash to make sure the interests of its employees and directors mesh with those of its stockholders. We want all of our employees and directors to think like shareholders.
But the same could not be said at First Union Corp., of Charlotte, N.C., which is in the process of buying Wachovia Corp. First Union was the only banking company in the study that did not offer stock payments to its board members last year, Mr. Hall said.
First Unions directors received a quarterly cash retainer of $11,250 last year, plus an additional $2,000 for each board meeting and $1,500 for each committee meeting they attended. The company paid $1.6 million in directors fees last year, according to a proxy statement.
Directors can defer payment of their fees until the year following their resignation. Those who do receive common stock equivalents, which they can cash in for the stocks market value after they resign. As of June, 13 directors at First Union had a total of $8.1 million in common stock equivalent deferred accounts.