Bank compensation up in 2012 despite cutback efforts

Sun Mar 10, 2013 8:04am EDT
 
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By Laura Noonan

LONDON (Reuters) - Compensation at the world's biggest banks rose last year, with 35 of them spending a combined 10 billion euros ($13.1 billion) more on staff than in 2011, figures compiled by Reuters show.

Bankers' remuneration has rarely been out of the spotlight over the last five years, as the industry's powerhouses were rescued from the brink during the financial crisis with hundreds of billions of taxpayers' dollars.

Policymakers have since fought to curb the bonuses they say encouraged excessive - and sometimes catastrophic - risk-taking.

Capping absolute pay levels is off-limits for regulators, but banks have talked a lot about cutting staff costs.

Reuters analyzed the 2012 results reported by banks in the benchmark EuroStoxx 600 index and their U.S. competitors and found staff costs rose to 275 billion euros across the group.

Two thirds of the banks analyzed increased compensation per person, though several attributed this at least in part to redundancy issues. The compensation ratio - the industry's preferred yardstick, which measures staff expenses against revenue - was up for 18 of the 35 banks.

Philippe Lamberts, a Belgian MEP who has also been outspoken on bank pay and supported a cap on bank bonuses recently agreed by members of the European Parliament, says the figures prove that, left to their own devices, banks do not reduce pay.

"To me it confirms that what we are doing on the remuneration front is necessary," said Lamberts, referring to efforts to restrict remuneration through bonus rules and other provisions in a European Union package of bank regulations.   Continued...

 
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange near the Goldman Sachs stall July 16, 2010. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid