Directors receive less as Barclays profits hit £1.8bn

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The Independent Online

Business Editor

The total pay of Barclays' directors tumbled 18 per cent last year as the bank's profits nearly trebled to £1.859bn before tax from £661m a year ago.

The main reason for the pay fall was plummeting bonuses at BZW, the investment banking subsidiary where most of the high earners work.

Its profits more than halved from £532m to £242m because of the bond market meltdown 13 months ago and a decision to play safe in the markets and avoid speculation.

While basic directors' pay is thought to be unchanged, bonuses for banking directors on the group board are likely to have risen sharply at the same time as BZW directors' bonuses fell. There were also fewer directors last year.

In 1993, David Band, chief executive of BZW, earned £1.4m but he is likely to have taken home much less in 1994. Group dealing income, much of it at BZW, fell from £657m in the bonanza year of 1993 to £384m. Martin Taylor, the chief executive, said board pay last year was "one of the best-controlled costs in the business."

But unions and labour spokesmen reacted angrily to the group profit rise.

Barclays Group Staff Union confirmed that it will ballot its 32,000 members on a series of one-day strikes after its claim for an across-the-board 5 per cent increase was rejected.

Paul Snowball, general secretary, said "I am sure our members will be delighted to see the bank doing so well. But what they will be devastated about is how they are being rewarded for contributing to that success. A pay rise of 2.75 per cent now looks pretty mean compared to today's profits."

Ian McCartney, shadow employment minister, said: "These figures continue the trend of big profits, and big payouts to directors, paid for by big staff layoffs." Barclays had shed 18,000 jobs since 1991, he said.

Mr Taylor defended the bank's staff pay record, saying there was a 7.5 per cent staff profit-sharing bonus costing £76m, compared with £26m for 1993. This represented a 5 per cent increase in earnings.

With a further 4 to 5 per cent average remuneration increase - the basic 2.75 per cent rise plus "wage drift" due to staff promotions - average earnings at Barclays would rise about 10 per cent, he said.

Barclays' profit rise, which led to a 39 per cent dividend increase to 21p a share, was largely a recovery story from past recession-induced losses.

Bad-debt provisions fell from £1.869bn to £602m. Operating profit was disappointing, falling £240m to £2.323bn, reflecting the lacklustre performance of BZW and the shrinkage of the group loan book.

Barclays Life raised its provisions against claims for mis-selling of personal pensions by £27m to £58m. as its sales fell 22 per cent.

Barclays cut about £9bn, or roughly a tenth, from its lending as the business was reorganised to concentrate on more profitable loans.

Mr Taylor said: "We see no merit in chasing fine margin lending or easing the criteria by which we judge lending propositions merely to increase our loan book and put future returns at risk."

With staff numbers down 4,300 worldwide and 2,300 in Britain, Barclays said further short-term cost reductions would be difficult to achieve.

Andrew Buxton, chairman, said the company was "well on the way to recovering its full health".

He promised a continued progressive increase in dividends and said the record profitability was accompanied by the strongest balance sheet in 10 years. The shares fell 23.5p to 582.5p.