Tales of boardroom greed apppear to have been greatly overdone, at least where part-time directors are concerned. Most non-executive directors are motivated by the desire to make a difference, according to a survey of FTSE 100 company secretaries by the executive search firm Whitehead Mann.
"In our experience, the directors who wish to work as NEDs do so because they want to be involved with interesting and dynamic companies," said Carol Leonard, head of Whitehead Mann's board practice.
Lesley Exley, managing director of Exley Hervey Executive Search, agreed: "What motivates potential directors is being interested in a company's strategy or sector ... and boardroom dynamics."
Nonetheless, non-executive directors can often earn sizeable incomes, by building a portfolio of part-time board positions, each paying between £40,000 and £70,000 pounds per year, for several days' work a month.
But many would-be directors are seeking one particular perk: private jet travel. "Most people who value their time don't want to go to the main UK airports," said Ms Exley.
However, half of the company secretaries polled by Whitehead Mann believed that more cash could entice stronger candidates into the boardroom. "It is important to pay the right fee for the right calibre of person," said one. But few non-executive directors are inclined to lobby the board for a pay rise, according to the company secretaries; nearly 90 per cent felt "almost no pressure from the NED community for higher fees".
In keeping with this non-mercenary image, NEDs rarely ask for shares or options as part of their remuneration, and fewer than one in five companies permit non-cash payments to part-time directors.