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Bankers at Credit Suisse earn 40% more than at UBS. There’s a catch

There's a serious sting in the tail to the generous pay at Credit Suisse (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There's a serious sting in the tail to the generous pay at Credit Suisse (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you’re a senior banker with a thing about big pay and big Swiss banks, today’s Credit Suisse annual report and compensation supplement make it clear that there’s only really one place to work: Credit Suisse.

In 2012, Brady Dougan’s Credit Suisse paid 523 key risk takers a total of CHF1,282m – an average of CHF2.4m per head. By comparison, UBS’s annual report, released last week, revealed that Sergio Ermotti’s UBS paid 501 key risk takers CHF790m – CHF1.6m per head.

In other words, Credit Suisse paid its key risk takers 50% more than UBS for 2012.

The situation is marginally less dispiriting for senior UBS bankers when the amount that was paid to it executive board is factored in (executive pay is included in Credit Suisse’s figures). In this case, UBS paid 514 key risk takers CHF860m. This works out at CHF1.7m per head. This is still 40% less than the average key risk taker earned at Credit Suisse.

Harsh five year bonus deferrals at UBS

The pay situation for bankers at UBS is made worse by the fact that the bank is deferring a high proportion of pay over a five year period.

All bankers at UBS who earn more than CHF250k had at least 60% of their 2012 bonuses deferred. 30% of deferrals were paid under an equity ownership plan, which vests over five years (with vesting starting in year three). 30% are paid under a new ‘deferred contingent capital plan’ (DCCP). Under the DCCP, bonuses are deferred for five years, with no vesting at all until year five. Worse: bonuses deferred under this plan will be written down to zero if UBS’s contingent capital falls below 7%.

Generous three year bonus deferrals at Credit Suisse

Credit Suisse’s deferral programme looks very generous by comparison.

Credit Suisse said today that all its share awards for 2012 vest over a three year period, with vesting happening equally in years one, two and three. Admittedly, there is a clawback on these shares, but as the chart below shows, it is very generous – Credit Suisse’s investment bank would need to lose more than CHF3bn before a clawback of more than 50% was imposed on their unpaid share awards.

The amounts deferred at Credit Suisse are also low compared to UBS. For bonuses above CHF250k, deferrals start at only 17%.

Credit Suisse clawbacksSource: Credit Suisse

Even Credit Suisse’s ‘Plus Bond’ payment scheme for directors and managing directors looks good. Managing directors and directors in Credit Suisse’s investment bank receive 17% of their bonuses in ‘Plus Bonds’ (compared to 30% in the punitive DCCP at UBS). Plus bonds ‘settle’ in 2016. Until then their holders are paid a healthy premium of Libor + 8%.

Brady Dougan’s sting in the tail

If you’re a high earning senior investment banker, there’s only one downside to working at Credit Suisse – and it’s a big one.

The sting is that if you’re a director of managing director, Credit Suisse reserves the right to clawback your cash bonuses for three years after their payment date “in the event of voluntary resignation or termination for cause within three years of the grant.”

In other words, managing directors and directors at Credit Suisse who decide to go and work somewhere else will have to pay back three years’ of cash bonuses when they leave. This harsh.

On the flip-side, Credit Suisse bankers are paid more and paid sooner than investment bankers at UBS.

If you’re deciding which bank to work for on the basis of pay, nothing is simple any more. Which would you go for?

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