Women all but absent from £24m windfall for AJ Bell top brass

One lone female director reaps £18,500 at IPO

DFMs worse than asset managers on gender pay


Only one woman was part of a £24.1m windfall for AJ Bell directors and senior managers as the investment platform went public this month.

Chief executive Andy Bell enjoyed the largest payday when the company he founded went public on 7 December 2018. Bell sold over 11 million shares at 160p each taking home £18.1m in total, according to a regulatory filing published on Wednesday. He simultaneously purchased £390,000 at IPO for himself, his family and a charitable trust of which he is a director.

Fergus Lyons was the next highest paid senior manager on the day landing £4.1m. Collectively the company’s directors and senior managers purchased £2.1m at IPO.

The sole female on the board of directors, Laura Carstensen, sold £18,505.60 worth of shares at IPO. Following the transaction Carstensen holds the smallest percentage of the company’s issued share capital out of any of the directors or senior managers at just 0.03%.

Alongside fellow non-executive director Eamonn Flanagan she reaped the smallest reward among the 11 directors and senior managers featured in the regulatory filing published on Wednesday. The pair both joined the board in March 2018. Flanagan’s purchase of £100,000 worth of shares takes his total stake to 0.04%.

There are no women among senior management.

An AJ Bell spokesperson said: “We focus on ensuring there are no barriers to women moving into senior roles if they want to when they become available and we have a talent management programme that incorporates that. Our median gender pay gap is also lower than most at 8%.”

AJ Bell directors and senior managers transactions at IPO

Position Shares sold at IPO % held following transactions
Les Platts Chairman £107,988.80 0.20%
Andy Bell CEO £18,142,809.60 25.50%
Michael Summersgill CFO £697,937.60 0.60%
Laura Carstensen Non-exec director £18,505.60 0.03%
Eamonn Flanagan Non-exec director £18,505.60 0.04%
Simon Turner Non-exec director £52,859.20 0.10%
Senior managers
Charles Galbraith MD, AJ Bell Youinvest £587,062.40 0.80%
Fergus Lyons MD, AJ Bell Investcentre £4,146,899.20 4.90%
Louis Petherick Chief risk officer £55,649.60 0.10%
Bruce Robinson Group legal services director £95,819.20 0.10%
Roger Stott Group finance director £146,648.00 0.20%
Source: Investegate

Unconscious bias 

City Hive chief executive and founder Bev Shah said she could not comment on AJ Bell directly because she was not familiar with its company culture, but said the filing highlights structural issues that prevent women reaching top roles.

AJ Bell’s gender pay report for 2017 revealed only 26.1% of employees in the top pay quartile were women in contrast to lower pay grades where women were represented at a rate between 43.8% and 49%. The gender split across the business is 58% men, 42% women, AJ Bell told Portfolio Adviser.

The mean and median gender pay gaps were 31% and 8.4% respectively. While 85.5% of women earned bonuses in 2017 compared with 81.6% of men, their bonuses were 67.5% lower than men’s on average or 22.6% lower based on the median.

In 2017, women at fund groups were paid on average 29.5% less than male staff, while at wealth management firms the gender pay gap was 40.9%.

AJ Bell said the pay gap was due to the structure of its senior executive workforce “the composition of which has been stable for several years”.

Shah said it was on AJ Bell to examine why their company culture and employment policies haven’t resulted in a more diverse leadership team. She said unconscious biases in hiring practises can lead to a healthy pipeline of women not being in place to take their seat at the c-suite table.

“Hiring on merit is of course the ultimate goal but if the pool of people you are hiring from is not the deepest you aren’t actually getting the best,” she said.


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