Barclays can't escape pay row as profits jump to £6bn

Bonuses are down at Barclays despite higher profits, which the Government will like. But its investment bankers are still earning more, all told.

by James Taylor
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013
Barclays kicked off the banks' reporting season today, and the picture was generally pretty rosy: it made pre-tax profits of just over £6bn last year, almost a third as much again as the equivalent figure for 2009 and well ahead of analyst forecasts. Its UK retail banking performed notably well, thanks largely to a drop in dodgy loans, while business lending was also up slightly. It’s also displayed a bit of political sensitivity by reducing its bonus pool by 7%, which that the Government has naturally seized on as proof of Project Merlin's efficacy. Although closer inspection reveals that average pay at its investment banking arm Barclays Capital has actually gone up quite substantially in the past 12 months...

Barclays actually posted profits of £11.6bn in 2009, but that number was boosted by the sale of its fund management arm BGI. Ignoring all such one-off factors, Barclays' underlying profits rose 11% this year, which suggest a pretty strong performance across the board. Bad loan provisions were down 30%, helping the UK retail banking arm to generate profits of almost £1bn, 39% up on 2009. New UK lending was also up slightly, from £35bn to £36bn, while the bank was keen to point out that it shelled out some £6bn in tax last year across its various areas of operation, including £2.8bn in the UK. Some food for thought there for those who argue that we'd be better off without any big banks at all.

However, one subject was always going to dominate coverage of today's results: bonuses. In fact, Barclays even acknowledged as much by putting out a separate statement on it. And fortunately for the bank (not to mention the Coalition) it had some good headline numbers to report. As well as that 7% drop in the overall pool, there was also a 12% drop within BarCap, despite a rise in headcount. That equates to an average pay-out of £104k, down from £124k in 2009. Positively frugal, we're sure you'll agree. It's also going to start paying out senior staff bonuses in contingent capital, where payouts are deferred over three years and won't happen at all if the bank's capital ratio falls below 7%.

That's not the full story, though. If you factor in all salary, pensions and bonuses, the average BarCap banker actually took home £230,000, about a fifth more than in 2009. This number's actually pretty meaningless because it covers such a broad spread - from secretaries to traders. But in general, it does look as though salaries have gone up to compensate for lower bonuses.

Barclays' results have clearly gone down well with the market: its share price is up 3% this morning. But as long as its bankers are getting paid ten times the average salary, it shouldn't expect the general public to give it quite so much credit.

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