James Moore: An impeccable addition to Pru's impeccable board. Pimm's all round


Click to follow
The Independent Online

Outlook Prudential has been busily collecting boardroom baubles since the spectacular mishandling of its attempted takeover of Asian insurer AIA.

Today the life insurer added another member of the City's aristocracy in the form of Philip Remnant, who has been hired as the senior independent director.

When City folk look down Pru's list of directors they tend to nod with approval and mutter about its high-powered board.

There's Lord Turnbull, the former Cabinet Secretary; Sir Howard Davies, former head of the Financial Services Authority, the CBI and now the London School of Economics; and various other business luminaries from around the world.

Based on his long City experience, with the likes of BZW (head of M&A), Credit Suisse (head of UK investment banking) and the Takeover Panel (director-general), Mr Remnant fits the bill. He's a fully paid-up member of the City establishment.

Given Prudential's mis-steps down the years, its grand group of grandees has presumably been put together with the aim of reassuring investors – not to mention skittish regulators – that the company is in safe hands.

But is a former M&A guru really the sort of person to say "no" when the next daft deal finds its way on to Prudential's doorstep? And are any of the people on Pru's board going to raise objections the next time a pay consultant recommends an excessive and ill-thought-out package when an executive threatens to flounce out? It would be most interesting to know if any of them holds more than a token interest in the sort of policies Prudential sells, and has in the past frequently mis-sold.

Mr Remnant, as the senior independent director, or Sid, is supposed to be a conduit through which shareholders can raise objections to, or concerns about, things like bad deals, bad pay or just bad practice.

One of those shareholders is probably M&G, Prudential's own fund management operation. It isn't likely to be knocking on his door, though. Not because M&G is owned by Prudential. Very few Sids appear to hear anything from it. M&G's voting record shows just 24 votes against management or abstentions between April and June. During the so called "shareholder spring" it was sat by the river drinking Pimm's and lemonade.

Given the establishment mindset and board of its parent company, that should come as no great surprise.