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SEB comes out guns blazing on bonuses, while Nordea enforces deferrals

It’s been consistently one of the most robust Nordic banks when it comes to bonuses, and SEB today fired a distinctly combative warning shot across the bows of politicians who want to see bankers continue to wear hair-shirts during 2011.

In its Q4 and full-year results, the bank revealed that short-term payouts had risen by 107% during 2010, with its merchant bankers pocketing 100% increases in the past three months compared with the same period in 2009.

Salaries as a whole fell 1% during the year but the amount paid out as short-term bonuses rose to SEK1.65bn from SEK795m in 2009, up 107%, with short-term remuneration rising to account for 12% of total staff costs, from 5%.

The group’s merchant bankers saw bonuses rise 16% across the year, but increase by more than a quarter between Q3 and Q4 and 100% (to SEK1.11bn against SEK556m) between Q4 2010 and the same quarter in 2009.

The bank’s private and wealth managers saw bonuses rise 7% over the year.

The bank put the increase in staff and remuneration costs down in part to “investments in the Nordic and German corporate expansion”, which had led to increased staff numbers within client organisations.

Increased M&A activity, improved demand for corporate borrowing and refinancing and higher activity in corporate banking and global transaction services also contributed, with income generation in trading (notably FX and capital markets) proving “resilient” it added.

The payouts at SEB contrast sharply with the picture at Nordea, which revealed its quarterly and full-year figures on Wednesday.

This showed staff costs for the year falling 2%, with the bank last year implementing a new performance-related structure requiring all “risk takers” to defer “a significant part” – up to 60% in some cases – of their earned performance-related salary for three years.

Its bonus pool for 2010 therefore amounted to €169m, against €212m in 2009, with €32m of this referring to Sweden. Variable salaries accounted for €97m, up from €82m last time around, with the size of such schemes capped to normally three months’ of fixed salary.

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