RSA shareholders back Hester's "call to arms" for recovery

LONDON Fri May 9, 2014 10:46am EDT

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LONDON May 9 (Reuters) - Shareholders in troubled insurer RSA have given overwhelming backing to a reshaped management team led by former Royal Bank of Scotland boss Stephen Hester, tasked with nurturing the firm back from crisis.

Votes at the company's annual shareholder meeting in London on Friday overwhelmingly backed motions on re-electing board members and directors' pay despite a 28 percent drop in the shares during 2013 and a hefty cut in the dividend.

The votes followed a torrid year for the company, marked by accounting irregularities at its Irish arm and hefty losses from extreme weather in key markets such as Canada and the UK.

The company's difficulties culminated in a string of profit warnings in 2013 and the departure of a number of senior figures, including Hester's predecessor Simon Lee.

Hester was appointed in February and immediately took on the task, started in 2013 after Lee's departure by chairman Martin Scicluna, of nurturing the company back to health.

"We start with the call to arms coming from a traumatic year for RSA ... a reset of the company's strategic and financial direction," Hester told shareholders.

Central to the recovery is a drive to raise up to 1.6 billion pounds ($2.7 billion) in capital and Hester tapped shareholders for around half in a rights issue that wrapped up in April.

The recovery plan also involves disposing of non-core assets, cutting costs, streamlining the remaining operations and slashing the dividend.

RSA's remuneration report, which received almost universal backing from investors, shows Lee, who resigned in December, was entitled to total pay for 2013 of 1 million pounds.

This includes a basic salary of 778,000 pounds plus pension benefits though he is not being paid a bonus for the year.

In lieu of a 12 month notice period, he is entitled to a further 824,000 pounds in monthly instalments, according to the annual report.

Hester's pay for 2014 will amount to a total of 1.255 million pounds, including a basic salary of 950,000 pounds, 285,000 pounds paid towards his pension and a 20,000 pound car allowance.

His contract also entitles him to take part in a long-term incentive scheme worth up to 300 percent of salary but deferred until 2017. In 2015 he will be eligible for a bonus of up to 80 percent of his basic salary.

($1 = 0.5899 British Pounds) (Editing by Mark Potter)

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