Ross McEwan: Euro bonus cap is hurting RBS' business

The bank's chief executive has complained that being the only lender in the UK not allowed to pay more than its employees' salaries in bonuses is threatening its ability to compete.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 21 Oct 2014

Last week RBS released its interim results a week early, such was its excitement over how brilliantly it was doing (or because its lawyers told it it had to - whatever). So when the official figures came out today, we all knew pretty much what it was going to say: pre-tax profits doubling to £2.65bn, impairment losses dropping by more than half, yada yada yada.

But one thing we hadn't got wind of was how tough it's finding being the only bank in the UK that can't pay more than its employees' salaries in bonuses.

To recap: last year the European Union issued new regulations preventing banks from paying senior employees more than 100% of their salary in bonuses, unless a majority of shareholders vote in favour of raising that level, in which case bonuses can be a maximum of 200% of salaries.

The government, being the majority (81%) shareholder of RBS, decided in April to vote against raising bonuses above the 100% cap - the only UK lender whose shareholders did so. Which, said chief executive Ross McEwan this morning, is hurting the bank's ability to compete.

'An inability to attract and retain qualified personnel could have an adverse impact on the implementation of the group's strategy and regulatory commitments,' he said.

The bank also warned that a Yes vote in September's Scottish independence referendum could 'have a material adverse effect': strong words, considering it has kept schtum on the subject so far in order not to alienate its large Scottish customer base. This morning's statement was still diplomatic, but served as a warning:

'Uncertainties resulting from an affirmative vote in favour of independence would be likely to significantly impact the group's credit ratings and could also impact the fiscal, monetary, legal and regulatory landscape to which the group is subject. The occurence of any of the impacts above could significantly impact the group's costs and would have a material adverse effect on the group's business.'

In other words: we don't care if it's a yes or a no, it's the uncertainty we don't like.

Never mind: the suspense will be over on September 18 - just in time for RBS' third-quarter results...

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