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Executive pay: Bonuses down, pay freezes up

Daniel Grill

Austerity has crept up from the man-in-the-street to the boardroom, with one in 10 chief executives in the FTSE 350 not receiving a bonus this year.

The average (median) bonus payout for a chief executive in the FTSE 350, the index of the U.K.'s top listed companies, was £905,000 in 2013, a 7 percent fall from 2012, according to analysis by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

And around one in five FTSE100 chief executives saw pay freezes in 2013.

"Restraint is the name of the game," Tom Gosling, head of PwC's reward practice, said.

"It is unsurprising that following a bruising 2012, companies have been keen to avoid the spotlight by demonstrating a responsible approach to executive pay this year."

In 2012, a number of executives had their knuckles rapped by shareholders over their pay. There were high-profile protests about executive compensation in companies ranging from AstraZeneca to WPP. Plus, Stephen Hester, then-head of Royal Bank of Scotland, decided not to take his bonus from the taxpayer-backed bank.

Many commentators had predicted that the decline in bonuses this year would be counterweighted by higher fixed salaries and long-term incentive plans (LTIPs).

However, the expected salary increase does not seem to have happened to chief executives, according to PwC. Where salaries have risen, they only went up by an average of 3 percent, similar to U.K. inflation. But total pay packages were "largely static" from 2012, suggesting that LTIPs were indeed making up a larger part of executive remuneration.

(Read more: Bye-bye big bonuses: Hello clawbacks and caps)

Of course, this does not mean that star performers aren't still getting bonuses. Still, bonus pools have also fallen at banks, according to the think tank Centre for Economics and Business Research, due to a decline in mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and initial public offerings (IPO) — although this may pick up again, with the improvement in activity in the second half of 2013.

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