Insurance, finance and banking firms in Asian hubs like Hong Kong hiked base pay for executives by an average of five per cent last year, according to consultancy Mercer.
But while firms in Europe are shifting more emphasis onto base salaries in light of new bonus regulations and capital requirements, the average executive got a raise of less than two per cent – and a sizeable minority were subject to a pay freeze.
Companies in the Americas were slightly more generous, awarding an average rise of 2.5 per cent.
Each region is on course for a similar rise in 2012. But many firms are keen to prune staffing costs, with one in three looking to change performance measures, and one in ten considering cutting maximum payouts.
More than 60 per cent of organisations froze salaries for their chief executives during 2011.
Mercer principal Sophie Black told City A.M. the European figures broadly reflect the state of City executive pay packets.
“Pay rises have been fairly flat in the UK, in line with the rest of the EU. There’s an acceptance that pay is driven by company performance and by regulation, and there’s not much that staff can do about that,” she said.
“I don’t see bonus opportunities being reduced, but because the performance of the firms isn’t there, the payouts will inevitably fall.”
However, she noted that Europe-based bankers don’t appear to be leaving for Asia in large numbers.
Matthew Wilcox, director at financial recruiter Marks Sattin, added: “We have seen the range of bonuses go on average from 20 to 40 per cent down to zero to 40 per cent. In previous years, those people getting nothing would be pretty much out of a job, but now it’s becoming more common that people keep on getting nothing, and it’s more down to the economy.
“But the top bankers are still being rewarded well – there is always a place for big bonuses in the revenue generating business units.”