Pay levels for non-executive directors are rising faster than for executives, against a backdrop of increasing workload and fear of financial scandal among big corporates, a new study has found.
But the survey by KPMG is likely to further fuel the debate about non-exec fat cattery.
Excluding chairmen, the average non-executive board member in the FTSE 100 was paid £48,000 last year, an increase of 13 per cent, said KPMG.
That was almost double the 7 per cent hike in basic pay received by executive directors, a reflection according to KPMG of the increased "responsibility and risk" that non-execs had taken on.
The KPMG survey is in line with a similar study in July by Income Data Services that reported non-executive directors pay rising by more than 20 per cent over the past 18 months as more intense investor scrutiny, corporate governance responsibilities and bigger workloads made the job a more onerous one.
IDS estimated the average pay of a FTSE 100 non-executive director was now £42,000 a year, with FTSE 100 non-executive chairmen earning almost £250,000, up 25 per cent.
Within the FTSE 250 the rewards were much lower, averaging £30,000 for non-executive directors and £117,500 for non-exec chairmen.
The KPMG survey also made the salient point that non-exec rises, while large, still did not match the average take- home pay increases for chief executives of FTSE 100 companies, which reached £1.8m in 2004, up 18 per cent.
Their take-home pay is of course boosted by bonus plans and other long-term incentive packages, to which non-executives are not entitled.
KPMG partner Carl Sjostrom said the rising pay levels for non-executives was simply a recognition of a more onerous audit and governance environment, particularly surrounding the work of remuneration committees.
"The task of the committee members has become very different. There's a much greater risk to the individual," he said.
This stemmed from in part from the challenges posed by the new US Sarbannes-Oxley corporate governance legislation and recent scandals over executive pay, KPMG said.
Chief executives in the media and entertainment sectors had the highest basic salaries, averaging £805,000 in the FTSE 350, it also found.