Barclays' bonus move is much ado about nothing
Published 24/04/2012 | 08:00
Oh dear. Barclays' PR offensive with its fractious corps of investors appears not to have been going too well.
How else to explain last week's unscheduled announcement of changes to the remuneration arrangements of chief executive Bob Diamond and his finance director Chris Lucas.
It's all rather complicated but the upshot is they could lose up to half of their 2011 bonuses if the bank's profitability doesn't improve quickly enough.
That amounts to £1.35m in the case of Mr Diamond and £900,000 for Mr Lucas. However, their total packages were worth £6.3m and £3.9m respectively. So it doesn't amount to all that much. They'll probably all look at this and say "so what".
Concession it is, but a rather minor one, not least because the part of Mr Diamond's various bonuses he stands to lose were 80% of the maximum the bank could have paid him in a year when Barclays return on equity (the figure Messrs Diamond and Lucas have to improve to keep the money) came in at a woeful 6.6%. Mr Diamond set a target of 13% by next year and unless he has been studying at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry he won't meet that.
Will the move be enough to placate the investors who have been bending the ears of his chairman, Marcus Agius, over the past few days?
Those investors, like Barclays, will have noted last week's vote against the pay awards made to Vikram Pandit and his executive pals at Citigroup in the US. Now it isn't entirely fair to compare the two. Citi received a bailout. Barclays did not. And Citi makes Barclays look like a model of restraint when it comes to how its executive plans are structured.
All the same, Citi's vote was evidence that the world has changed. Perhaps Alison Carnwath, who chairs Barclays' remuneration committee, will see that now.
There still remains the issue of how Barclays adds up the numbers so Messrs Diamond and Lucas get their money.
If this involves cutting the jobs of lots of little people rather than the pay of Barclays' high-rolling investment bankers then it could be in for a long summer of discontent.