By George Hay
LONDON, Sept 4 (Reuters Breakingviews) - Deutsche Bank’s
(DBKGn.DE) new leaders are saying the right things about banker
pay. On July 31 new co-chief executives Anshu Jain and Juergen
Fitschen made reform of compensation one of their three key
objectives. With the German lender’s strategy day on Sept. 11
looming, they need to follow up with decisive action.
Jain and Fitschen should start by more closely aligning pay
with the long-term health of the bank. Deutsche could take a
leaf out of HSBC’s (HSBA.L) book and make its bankers wait five
years rather than three to receive those share-based elements of
bonuses that have been deferred. They could then only be allowed
to sell their shares when they retire or leave the firm.
But neither of these reforms would address the problem
identified by the duo themselves in July - excessive absolute
levels of pay. The bluntest way to do this would be a variant of
what the European Parliament has proposed - namely, capping the
variable part of bonuses at a certain proportion of fixed
salary, such as 100 percent. If Jain and Fitschen unilaterally
did this, Deutsche bankers might well stampede for the exit. But
if the new CEOs tried to counter this by raising fixed salaries
to compensate, they would reduce their capacity to rein in costs
in bad years.
Yet having flagged the problem, the co-CEOs would look silly
if they didn’t propose something tangible to address the overall
quantum of pay and their other focus - how bonuses compare to
shareholder returns. One way to square the circle would be to
commit to only pay bonuses if Deutsche exceeded its cost of
Jain and Fitschen could then pledge to divide the economic
profit spoils equally between investors and the employee bonus
pool. They could even impose a cap beyond which everything went
to shareholders. That cap could be set so that the average bonus
per employee did not exceed the $337,000 average payout per
employee recorded by top rivals in 2011. That would still
incentivise individual bankers to maximise their efforts.
The temptation will be to play it safe. But rivals like
Barclays (BARC.L) are in similar reform mode and the investment
banking slowdown looks structural, not cyclical. Jain and
Fitschen have a golden opportunity to position Deutsche as the
enlightened trailblazers of a new era.
SIGN UP FOR BREAKINGVIEWS EMAIL ALERTS:
- Deutsche Bank needs to further address both the absolute
level of compensation and the relative balance between rewards
for shareholders and those for employees, new co-chief
executives Juergen Fitschen and Anshu Jain said on July 31.
- The new CEOs of the German lender said that compensation
processes needed to become less complex, more transparent, and
clearly and visibly aligned to sustainable performance.
- Deutsche will reveal details of its new strategy when it
holds strategy days for its investors on Sept. 11 and 12.
- Average compensation per employee for the investment banks
of Barclays Capital, JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley,
Credit Suisse and UBS was $337,000 in 2011 and $392,000 in 2010,
according to analyst estimates.
- Deutsche has already tightened its clawback rules.
Unvested shares in incentive schemes transferred when senior
bankers join Deutsche are now eligible to be clawed back, if the
new staff joined later than Dec. 11.
- Upfront cash bonuses should not exceed bankers’ fixed
salaries, German finance minister Wolfgang Schauble wrote on
- Strategy Update, July 31: here
- Schaeuble article, Aug. 31: here#axzz256ktxdzx
(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions
expressed are his own)
- For previous columns by the author, Reuters customers can
click on [HAY/]
(Editing by Chris Hughes and David Evans)
Keywords: BREAKINGVIEWS DEUTSCHE/
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