Belfast Telegraph

RBS and Lloyds Banking Group bosses set to be grilled by investors

Investors are set to grill bosses at Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and Lloyds Banking Group next week, with executive pay and branch closures expected to be high on the agenda at annual general meetings (AGM) in Edinburgh.

The banks will see little reprieve from shareholders on May 11, despite a return to form in the first quarter which saw Lloyds double profits and RBS swing back into the black.

S hareholders in RBS are being urged to vote against a new remuneration policy, which will face a binding investor vote at its annual meeting at Gogarburn.

Under the new pay plan, chief executive Ross McEwan would be eligible for a long-term award of 175% of his salary and finance chief Ewen Stevenson 200%.

Although the awards are a decrease on the previous 400%, investor advisory group Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) said this was not "sufficient", and recommended shareholders oppose the remuneration policy.

In addition, ISS expressed concern over proposals that would see executives remain in line for pay awards even after they leave the bank.

Pensions & Investment Research Consultants (PIRC) is also calling on shareholders to vote against the new pay scheme, stating: " The executives should be rewarded for the period they served the company and nothing more."

In its defence, RBS has said t he aim of the new policy is to "encourage sustainable long-term performance, with executive directors having significant alignment in shares both during and after employment".

PIRC is also advising shareholders to oppose the re-election of chairman Sir Howard Davies over the lack of female representation on the board.

In a report, the group hit out at the fact that there is "no clear commitment to increase overall gender diversity at board level".

While there are no signs that Lloyds will be hit with a shareholder rebellion, the bank could still face tough questions over plans to slash its high street branch network and efforts to redress fraud victims who suffered at the hands of former HBOS staff.

The Black Horse came under fire from the unions in April after releasing further details on plans to shut branches, with 100 sites earmarked for closure between July and October.

The move is part of some 200 closures announced by the bank last summer.

Lloyds also said last month that it would begin making compensation offers to HBOS fraud victims in May, while payments are expected to begin in June.

It comes after a group of corrupt financiers were jailed for carrying out a £245 million loans scam and squandering the profits on high-end prostitutes and luxury holidays.

MPs wrote to Lloyds' bosses in February demanding "proper compensation" for defrauded businesses, claiming neither HBOS nor Lloyds had adequately investigated complaints.

Chief executive Antonio Horta-Osorio's pay will also be under the spotlight when investors meet at Edinburgh International Conference Centre .

Mr Horta-Osorio's total pay package fell to £5.5 million last year from £8.7 million in 2015, due to a cut in his long-term shares award after the stock took a battering following the Brexit vote.

But the group's Portuguese boss saw his short-term bonus go up from £850,000 to £1.2 million and his base salary will increase by 8% in 2017 to £1.2 million, the first rise since he joined in 2011.

Under the bank's new remuneration policy, which faces a binding shareholder vote at the AGM, Mr Horta-Osorio has the potential to earn a maximum of £8.2 million if all targets are met.

Question marks also hang over the chief executive's long-term future, as the Government edges closer to fully re-privatising the lender after reducing the taxpayers' stake to less than 1%.

Weekly Business Digest Newsletter

This week's business news headlines, directly to your inbox every Tuesday.