Breakingviews-Finance professionals look askance at neighbours

Fri Jun 7, 2013 2:41pm IST

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(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.)

By Dominic Elliott

LONDON, June 7 (Reuters Breakingviews) - Three quarters of UK finance workers reckon some of their ilk are overpaid, a survey says. That may sound like self-flagellation, but the YouGov pollsters didn’t ask the relevant question for that: whether the respondents considered their own rewards excessive, relative to their peers or to workers in other industries. Really, it’s the one quarter who did not see a problem with pay that should make headlines. Do they think everything is OK, or are they lacking in the sector's famed competitiveness?

The minority is also more interesting in another survey result. One third of people who did not agree the industry’s pay arrangements encourage inappropriate behaviour. What were they thinking? Did they disagree with all the reports on perverse incentives? Do they not think there is anything really bad about the way financial institutions have been run?

The most depressing, but perhaps not the most surprising, result of the survey - conducted on behalf of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, a UK association for human resources professionals - was the stasis. Fewer than four in 10 respondents say there has been any initiative led by senior executives to change the culture of their firm over the last 12 months - and one in six workers has been bullied or pressed to behave in unethical ways.

In theory, the UK has been working hard to tackle finance's rotten culture. Indeed, Andrew Tyrie's Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards will publish its report in the next fortnight. In April, veteran lawyer and banker Anthony Salz published an independent review of Barclays' (BARC.L) recent failings which said that bankers were too motivated by pay.

If the YouGov survey is anything to go by, the industry’s workers at least recognise the cultural challenge. That is positive, though action would be much more positive. But what the survey says about the recognition of excessive pay deserves a dose of salt.

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CONTEXT NEWS

- Three quarters of financial services employees, and two thirds of senior managers, said some people in their organisations were still paid excessively, according to a survey published by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) on June 6. Almost two thirds of the 1,000 workers polled also said some of their colleagues were rewarded in a way that encouraged inappropriate behaviour, for example withholding information from co-workers, excessive and unauthorised risk-taking and even lying to customers. Fewer than one in three said they were proud to work in the financial services sector.

- YouGov conducted the online survey for the CIPD of 1,026 UK employees working in banking, brokerage and investment and insurance over four days in April. The responses chosen were selected at random from a panel of more than 400,000 individuals who have agreed to take part in YouGov surveys.

- CIPD survey: link.reuters.com/tyx68t

- Reuters: Pay still excessive in Britain's financial services, say workers [ID:nL5N0EH3CX]

- For previous columns by the author, Reuters customers can click on [ELLIOTT/]

(Editing by Edward Hadas and Sarah Bailey)

((dominic.elliott@thomsonreuters.com))

((Reuters messaging: dominic.elliott.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net)) Keywords: BREAKINGVIEWS FINANCE/PAY/

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