Barclays has revealed staff costs jumped by a fifth to almost £12 billion last year, despite a 12% cut in the bonus pool for its investment bankers.
In a year when pre-tax profits rose 32% to £6.1 billion, Barclays added, the group-wide pot for performance-related awards fell 7% to £3.4 billion.
The banking giant denied it was ramping up pay at Barclays Capital to compensate for the smaller bonus pool, claiming the higher staff costs were partly caused by a 7% increase in headcount and deferred pay and bonuses from previous years. The average bonus at Barclays Capital, not including salary, was £104,839 compared with £125,100 a year earlier.
Amid intense public scrutiny on bank bonuses, Barclays' decision to reduce its performance-related pay follows its recent Project Merlin agreement with the Government.
Chief executive Bob Diamond is expected to receive an estimated package of more than £9 million in pay and bonuses but the company is refusing to reveal details until its annual report is published next month.
Presenting his first set of results, Mr Diamond warned that the tighter regulatory environment would lead to lower returns and said he had instigated a rigorous review of the bank's business to make it more efficient.
Although the results show an improved performance, the profits figure falls short of pre-financial crisis days when 2007 profits hit £7.1 billion. At its star investment banking arm Barclays Capital, which saw pre-tax profits excluding own credit rise by 2% to £4.4 billion, the bonus pool for 2010 will be 12% lower than last year at £2.6 billion.
Mr Diamond said: "We are committed to demonstrating that we are both responsible in our compensation decisions and practices and that we take our regulatory obligations and UK Government commitments seriously."
Shares in Barclays were up 3% following the release of the results, having already climbed 11% over the past three months.
However Len McCluskey, general secretary of the Unite union, said: "The Barclays decision to award these mammoth bonuses for their top bankers is shameful. These bonuses undermine any claim by the Government that there is fair pay in banking. Those at the top of the big banks are paid more then 100 times the pay of those workers at the lowest level. These excessive rewards widen the gap between those at the top and ordinary workers struggling to pay their bills."