As the chairman, Douglas Flint, described overall performance as “satisfactory in aggregate”, the bank admitted that 64 of the 192 paid more than Â£1m were based in the UK.
The shares were one of the biggest fallers in the FTSE 100 as even though at first sight the profits were up 15% at $21.9bn (Â£13.8bn), the market focused on a $17.7bn figure which stripped out $3.9bn of gains on the value of the bank’s own debt.
Becoming the first major bank to comply with new Treasury requirements to publish the top eight highest paid “executives”, the bank revealed that these unidentified employees shared Â£30m between them.
Under Hong Kong listing rules the bank also published the details of the five highest paid “employees” which produced a total of Â£27.7m, reflecting how the UK rules on “executives” do not always capture the biggest earners. The highest-paid employee earned $12m Â£8.1m.
Chief executive Stuart Gulliver “ and other members of his executive team – had their bonuses docked because of the payment protection insurance scandal and the Â£10.5m fine by Financial Services Authority for the mis-selling to elderly customers by its NHFA subsidiary. Others had their bonuses “clawed back” because of these incidents.
Gulliver’s bonus might have been Â£1.3m higher without those mistakes but even so, the bank said he was paid Â£7.2m in 2011 “ Â£1.25m salary, Â£2.16m bonus and Â£3.75m in a long-term incentive plan, and the second highest paid employee under the Hong Kong listing rules methodology. His Â£7.2m “ which the bank compared with Â£8.3m a year ago “ also excludes Â£527,000 in pension allowances, Â£266,000 for a housing allowance while in Hong Kong, some Â£1.3m when shares vested from the 2010 bonus and Â£2.3m from the 2009 bonus. Highlighting the complexity of executive pay, the bank provided three numbers for his pay: the Â£7.2m figure; Â£6.6m down from Â£3.9m; Â£4.1m down from Â£6.1m
Flint, who is receiving Â£3.4m, defended the Gulliver’s bonus, saying he was “steering a ship of this size and importance”. “It’s a 24/7 job,” Flint said.
Gulliver stressed that his plan to cut costs was a “redesign of the group, not a shrinkage” even though he has conceded that 30,000 roles will go in the next three years as he tries to bolster the bank’s return on equity to 12-15%. The figure for 2011 was 10.9%.
The bonus pool for investment bankers was down to $1.2bn from $1.6bn while the entire bank’s bonus pool was $4.2bn, unchanged on the year. Profits in the global investment bank fell 24% to $7bn – and collapsed in the European investment banking arm to $77m from $2.7bn. The commercial bank made record profits of $8bn.
David Fleming, Unite national officer, said: “Countless reviews of the company’s operations to make short-term savings continue, while the top bankers take home enormous bonuses. How can CEO Stuart Gulliver have a clear conscience over his reward package of Â£7.2m, while thousands of staff face uncertainty about their jobs?”
Some 170 of its “code staff” “ those who are defined under Financial Services Authority rules to be takers or watchers of risk “ took home more than $1m. The average pay to its 320 “code staff”“ up from 280 “ was $1.58m down from $1.68m a year ago. This average “ just under Â£1m “ will be used as a marker for other UK banks when they release similar information in the coming weeks. One unidentified employee “ described as “non-senior management” “ got a signing-on fee of $3.5m.
While Gulliver, who took the helm a year ago, achieved his goals on its dividend policy, he missed targets on other elements of financial performance such as return on equity and improving costs. The cost efficiency ratio worsened to 57.5% from 55.2% and reached 61% on an underlying basis. The crucial measure of capital “ the core tier one ratio “ also deteriorated to 10.1% from 10.5%.
Gulliver spelled out how the bank divided up its $16.2bn of attributable profit “ 50% for capital, 35% to shareholders through $7.3bn of dividends, and 15% to employees. The Association of British Insurers said this breakdown “strengthens its [HSBC’s] investment case”.
The bank paid $507m to George Osborne’s levy “ some $340m was for its non-UK banking operations which HSBC regards as “tax as being headquartered in the UK”.