In Focus

‘Bonus bonanza’ for bankers: what cost of living crisis?

Bankers pop open the champagne to celebrate huge payouts 

It hasn’t been a great week for former Barclays boss Jes Staley, said James Sillars on Sky News. The bank has frozen share awards worth in the region of £22m while Staley “contests the findings of a regulatory probe” into his relationship with the sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Still, elsewhere at the bank champagne corks have been popping on news of a giant leap in annual profits to a record £8.4bn. 

Cue a bonus bonanza, said Kalyeena Makortoff in The Guardian. Barclays has increased its bonus pool “by more than 17% to £1.3bn” – the latest large British bank to up its payouts. Earlier this week, HSBC confirmed that it is “boosting its pool by nearly a third” to $3.5bn (£2.6bn). State-backed NatWest has also resumed paying cash bonuses to top bosses for the first time since the Fred Goodwin era. 

Bank bosses talk of needing to pay “competitively” – but the largesse is bound to jar with more cash-strapped Britons, said Jamie Nimmo in The Sunday Times. A “bonus spending guide” compiled by Bloomberg rubs salt in the wound. “It’s no crime to treat yourself,” it observes – going on to recommend snapping up a $19,400 Vacheron Constantin Overseas watch (“an investment on your wrist”), bidding on a $420,000 2015 Ferrari 458 Speciale, or treating yourself to a bottle of Glen Grant Scotch for a cool $34,999. What cost-of-living crisis?

As Britons face the “biggest squeeze on their incomes” since at least 1990, the “particularly obscene” bonuses come after Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey called on workers across the country not to ask for pay rises to help control inflation, said Rupert Neate in The Guardian

These “sky-high” payouts are “a kick in the teeth for everyone suffering with the cost of living crisis”, said Gary Smith, general secretary of the GMB union. Frances O’Grady, general secretary of trade union body the TUC, called the increase in bankers’ pay “an insult to working families across Britain”.

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