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3 Sep, 2009 17:11

Bankers bonus culture facing global pressure

Banker's bonuses are set to face unprecedented attention this weekend at the G20 summit in London. EU leaders are calling for restraint – but not everyone agrees.

Bankers were widely blamed for the reckless lending that tipped the world financial system into chaos last year. That hasn't stopped them getting huge bonuses, despite criticism from shareholders, the public and politicians.

The leaders of the UK, France and Germany appealed to EU leaders to regulate banks' behaviour on Thursday, ahead of G20 summit this weekend.

At a preparatory meeting this week, to work out a common position, EU finance ministers agreed the time is right to tighten up on big bonuses, according to Swedish Finance Minister, Anders Borg.

“We are in a difficult state of affairs. We will see social tension in our societies given that we are still in a very very precarious situation in terms of the labour market. And in that kind of environment I think it's very important that we as politicians give a clear message that the old bonus culture must come to an end.”

But the enthusiasm for curbing executive payouts is not universal. Britain and America, both home to world leading finance centers, are reluctant to introduce binding legislation. France and Germany are more ready to limit big payouts, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel especially wary of a return to behaviour which triggered the financial chaos..

“This opportunity must not be missed, because at several financial centres in the world we are noting – to the surprise of many people – that those banks which have recovered behave just like they did in times before the financial crisis and this must not repeat itself.”

In Russia, bankers pay is also likely to take a hit. But that's largely a correction from excessive wage inflation during the pre-crisis boom, according to Yaroslav Lissovolik, Chief Economist at Deutsche Bank Russia.

“Realistically speaking we will see a moderation in bonuses and wages in Russia and across the globe. In Russia perhaps also to a significant degree because, here the degree of inflation in that segment was probably excessive in the preceding several years.”