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Agius: banks face tsunami of pressure

BARCLAYS chairman Marcus Agius yesterday hinted that the firm’s annual bonus round next month will see it concede in part to the “tsunami” of pressure faced by bankers in the wake of the economic crisis.

“The architecture of our pay round will be very different to anything we have seen before, in accordance with the regulatory changes that have taken place,” Agius said. “There is a huge amount of public anger which is quite understandable and very justified. That has to be accommodated.”

Speaking at a banking conference hosted by the ICAEW, he added: “We are facing a tsunami of regulatory, public and political pressure.”

Agius’ comments come after a slew of US banking giants this week revealed bumper remuneration payouts for 2009 in spite of widespread political controversy over bonuses. Goldman Sachs yesterday said it had set aside almost $16.2bn to reward its staff over the year, while Morgan Stanley, Citi and JP Morgan will pay employees a combined total of nearly $50bn.

Barclays is thought to be considering hiking the fixed salaries of staff at its Barclays Capital investment banking arm to offset the regulatory crackdown on discretionary pay. However, the bank is expected to defer up to 60 per cent of its bonuses, in line with new G20 and FSA principles on compensation.

Agius also warned yesterday that changes to regulation face causing considerable damage to the UK economy if implemented without due consideration of the consequences.

“We are in the fragile stages of economic recovery, but we don’t want to find we have ruined that through overenthusiastic regulation,” he said.