Now that bankers at RBS, Barclays Capital and possibly HSBC are all en route to becoming public-sector employees, what are the implications for their job security and compensation?
Given that the government won’t have shareholder voting rights in the banks it’s recapitalising, it’s not going to be telling banks to put staff into early retirement and pay them a state pension. The only upside for job security is that the banks involved won’t be going into administration any time soon – not that this was ever really an option anyway.
Instead, the real impact of public cash is likely to be felt in bankers’ pockets. There are strings attached, and one of them is hooked onto limits on executive pay. The FSA is already promising to create a new code of conduct governing pay and bonuses.
Richard Everett, former head of the legal team at the FSA and a partner at law firm LG, says the FSA’s pay restrictions are likely to apply to traders, not just board members. He also says the FSA’s intervention is likely to take the form of high-level suggestions rather than specific dictates forbidding traders to earn more than 100k.
Despite this, it would clearly be bad PR for organisations that are taking cash from taxpayers to be seen paying big bonuses to bankers – even if they’re in areas that still make money.
A commodities trader at one of the banks involved says he wasn’t holding out much hope for bonuses this year anyway. “A lot of the impact of this nationalisation will depend on the terms of the deal, and they haven’t been very well drawn out yet.”