Australian bankers are hatching golden goose eggs

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Do you own shares in an Australian bank? If so, you could be sitting pretty - until the time comes to move on.

Shares in the average Australian bank have doubled over the past five years (with the exception of National Australia Bank, which rose from only AU$30 to AU$40). And shares at Macquarie Bank have jumped twelvefold since the bank listed in 1996.

Some Oz bankers have done well from incubating these golden nest eggs. Jules Orpen at recruiter Heidrick & Struggles says banks issuing bonuses of 100% of salary will typically pay 20% to 30% of that in company shares.

At Macquarie, holding shares is mandatory. "You've got to have skin in the game," says John Egan, principal with Egan Associates Remuneration and Governance Consultants. MacBankers must spend a percentage of their bonus on MBL shares and must accumulate shares to a multiple of their salary, says Egan.

Rising share prices are good news - until the time comes to move on. Unless the hiring bank will buy out restricted stock and options (which is sometimes the case), they will all be forfeited if you quit before the vesting date.

This can make moving jobs an expensive business. "If a banker has accumulated 100,000 options that are AU$20 in the money, he's sitting on AU$2m and if he wanted to leave, he would forfeit that - unless he were a 'good leaver' and went to a non-competitor," Egan says.

At Macquarie, options are more likely to be AU$30 or AU$40 or even AU$70 in the money.

"MacBank has 200 executive directors and very few of them are leaving," Egan says. Who can blame them?

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