Barclays received a bloody nose yesterday after nearly a third of its share-holders refused to back its pay policy, which saw chief executive Bob Diamond collect a total of £17.7m last year.
Shareholders vented their anger on the chair of Barclays' remuneration committee, the former investment banker Alison Carnwath, with a total of 24 per cent of the votes cast against her or withheld.
At the occasionally rowdy shareholders meeting, the chairman Marcus Agius apologised to investors in a packed Royal Festival Hall on London's South Bank. He admitted that Barclays' bosses "have not done a good enough job in articulating our case".
"On some matters we should have communicated earlier and more clearly," said Mr Agius, who was heckled on several occasions.
"For this I apologise, and I assure you that in the future we will be engaging differently and more purposefully with shareholders in order to ensure that we obtain a broader level of support on remuneration policy and practice."
Just over 2 billion votes (27 per cent) were cast against the remuneration report and another 521 million abstained.
Following the vote, George Dallas, corporate governance director at F&C, said: "This is a significant statement of investor concern about the company's remuneration practices. We would hope that the board will clarify its interpretation of this vote, and how this may affect the company's remuneration structure and implementation going forward." The Association of British Insurers said the vote had "showed investor concern on pay" and added that "all banks face a challenge to improve the case for investing in them".
The fund manager Patrick Evershed, who is also president of the Cities of London & Westminster Conservatives, said: "Some City bonuses have been so large that they have divided our society and caused serious damage to the reputation of the City. It made it next to impossible for those of us who believe in capitalism to defend those bonuses."
A private shareholder, Bill Wray, when asked to empty his pockets of coins for the security scanner joked: "I haven't got any money, Bob Diamond took it all. The man lives in a different world to the rest of us."
Ms Carnwath was met with ironic laughter when she told shareholders that "decisions were even more difficult this year than usual". But she was applauded when she said: "We will continue to seek to push down the levels of remuneration to reflect the environment we work in."
Barclays paid three times as much in bonuses – £2.15bn – as it did in dividends – £730m – last year. Last week Mr Diamond and the finance director Chris Lucas agreed that half their annual bonus for 2011 should not be paid until the return on equity at the bank exceeded its cost of capital.