Losses from Lloyds and RBS demonstrate acute need to overhaul the bonus system

Losses from Lloyds and RBS demonstrate acute need to overhaul the bonus system, says Association of Financial Mutuals CEO, Martin Shaw

  • New research shows strong public support for stopping bonuses in loss-making organisations and publishing top executive pay
  • Stability of a financial organisation is the joint second most important factor for consumers when choosing where to save or invest

As Lloyds and RBS prepare to report combined losses of £4 billion this week, despite showing a willingness to pay six and seven figure bonuses, new research from the Association of Financial Mutuals reveals strong public support for curbing excessive and irresponsible remuneration and bonus payments.

Martin Shaw said, “It will come as a shock to many that organisations who fail to make a profit can justify paying their top executives vast bonuses. The Government must commit to looking very carefully and comprehensively at the bonus culture – not just within our private sector organisations – but in the public sector too, to ensure that they are used proportionately and as intended: a reward for exceptional performance.”

New research commissioned by the Association of Financial Mutuals shows strong public support for greater transparency of top executive remuneration in financial organisations, and a clear link between company performance and bonuses. 

Over half (51 per cent) of respondents supported either a complete ban on bonus payments unless the organisation was making a profit, or that details of top executives’ pay and bonuses must be made publicly available. Nearly one fifth (18 per cent) supported both of these measures being implemented.

Stability was also revealed as the joint second most important factor, on a par with access to a local branch, that consumers consider when choosing where to save and invest their money.

Shaw added, “This ongoing furore over bonuses in part publicly-owned or funded organisations – especially loss-making ones – shows that taxpayers demand a say in top people’s pay. This is exactly the kind of shareholder activism that will make companies more accountable to their owners.

“There is also a growing realisation from consumers and politicians that the capitalist business model has lost its moral compass and is in need of urgent repair, and that the Government should actively support the growth of other forms of business model – such as companies owned by their staff or customers.”

“There are two positives to take from recent events though”, Shaw noted. “Firstly, Lloyds claiming back some past bonus payments – if adopted more widely – could mark a step-change in remuneration policy for top executives, holding them to closer personal account for the business decisions they take, even in retrospect. This is a must going forwards.”

“Secondly, in opposition the Conservative Party committed to disclosing the number of employees in banks on high salaries. The Chancellor has failed to act on this in Government, but this research shows he has a clear mandate from the electorate to do so.” 

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