Should investment bankers should have their pay published? They say it would be demotivating, internally disruptive, cause unhelpful friction with clients and regulators, and even make the best paid into targets for burglars and nutcases, possibly even endangering their children.
The same arguments do not seem to apply to top civil servants, judges or politicians, all of whom have their pay published. But on the other hand investment bankers have always felt themselves to be different, special, a hugely hard-working and talented elite who contribute massively to the economy and frankly the rest of the country is lucky to have us, because we could easily move to Hong Kong or Switzerland. There is a sense of entitlement that persists even after the bail-out, and it makes me uncomfortable.
We might suffer less resentment if we were clearer about the good that we do and the contributions that we make elsewhere.
For the avoidance of doubt, I’m not talking about the taxes that we pay, or the beneficial effect of our spending power. Neither cuts much ice since the bailout. I’m talking about the actual good that we choose to do as individuals.
The City is a huge reservoir of talent, and it is no surprise that talented, well heeled people contribute in all kinds of ways to society.
Cynical as I am, I am nevertheless constantly heartened by hearing of senior people in the industry giving seriously of themselves in a good cause. Not everyone can follow David Tait at UBS and climb Everest five times to raise money for the NSPCC, but many busy people who spend their lives on aeroplanes still find time to do something significant, whether it is fundraising, serving as trustees of charities, sitting on public bodies or establishing charitable trusts of their own.
If firms are being pressed to provide greater transparency about pay, why not accompany it with greater transparency about public service and charitable donations, at least by the most senior employees?
The flipside of course is that it might also become apparent who is not doing anything. ‘Joe Smith is Managing Director in European M & A and last year received £250k base salary and £1m bonus. He made no charitable donations and does not serve on any public or voluntary sector bodies’. But there couldn’t be anyone like that, could there?