HSBC’s top banker took home £9 million last year, as bonuses soared despite the cost-of-living crisis.
The bank’s bonus pot for top bankers jumped by a third to £2.6 billion – despite nurses being offered a pay rise of just one per cent after their efforts on the frontline in the pandemic.
But HSBC insisted that the astonishing pay is simply a reflection of the bank’s returns. Its chief executive, Noel Quinn, said there is a “competitive market” for talent in banking.
“We took our variable pay down when profits declined, we put it up when profits go up,” the HSBC boss – who pocketed a cool £9 million last year – told the Evening Standard.
Profits for 2021 leapt from $10 billion to close to $19 billion – with Quinn expecting a “very material uplift” on the bank’s returns this year thanks to rising interest rates.
‘Intense war for talent’
It comes after bankers last week began collecting the biggest bonuses since the 2008 global financial crisis, just as Brits face the most severe squeeze on their incomes since the early 1990s.
Amid an “increasingly intense war for talent”, high-paid bankers will this week celebrate “particularly obscene” bonuses in the pubs and bars of the City of London, according to The Guardian.
James, a bartender at the New Moon pub on Leadenhall Market, in the heart of the City, told the newspaper: “We have had quite the run on champagne – the poshest champagne we stock.
“They come here to celebrate when they get told their ‘number’ – the numbers seem to have been particularly obscene this year.”
Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) bankers earned total fees of £2.6 billion in 2021, according to research by financial data firm Refinitiv – the highest annual total for M&A banker fees since its records began in 2000.
‘Step out the banking bubble’
That money – fuelled by a frenzy of corporate takeovers amid a flood of private equity cash – is now set to be funnelled down to bankers in their bonuses.
According to The Guardian, London’s big four banks – Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group and NatWest – are set to pay out bonuses totalling more than £4 billion in the next fortnight.
The banks’ combined annual profits will likely exceed £34 billion – the most since 2007 in the pre-crash boom.
It comes after Andrew Bailey, the governor of the Bank of England, who was paid £575,538 last year, called on workers not to ask bosses for pay rises to help control inflation, which has rocketed to a three-decade high of 5.4 per cent.
Gary Smith, general secretary of the GMB union, which represents 600,000 mostly frontline workers, said: “These sky-high banker bonuses are a kick in the teeth for everyone suffering with the cost of living crisis. I hope Andrew Bailey tells his banking mates to show the same ‘restraint’ he so readily demands from underpaid workers in the rest of the economy.
“Essential workers, like our nation’s carers, often earn pennies above the minimum wage. Mr Bailey should step out of his banking bubble and shadow these workers to see the people who actually deserve a proper pay rise.”