It was one of the most disastrous years in the history of the City of London, but almost three-quarters of workers in the financial centre still managed to pocket a bonus in 2008.
A survey conducted by the City recruitment consultancy Morgan McKinley reveals that 73 per cent of those working at 200 banks and other financial institutions in the UK received payments in excess of their basic salaries in 2008. The research will fuel allegations that pay at City firms has spiralled out of control, with bankers and others being rewarded with no regard to their performance.
Just over half of City workers said their bonuses were lower than the payments received in 2007, which they blamed on cutbacks made by employers, but 16 per cent said their bonuses had actually increased. And even the 27 per cent who missed out on a bonus did not lose out altogether: they were able to console themselves with above-inflation pay rises that averaged 5 per cent.
"This research highlights the inevitable," said Andrew Evans, Morgan McKinley's managing director. "But the majority of London's financial services professionals who were fortunate enough to receive [a bonus] saw their payouts reduce in size compared to what they received the previous year. There were still some people who received their full bonus or a payout higher than last year."
The group, which largely works to place middle- and back-office staff, also pointed to a recovery in the City jobs market. Last month, the number of available financial services jobs in London was up by 10 per cent. But while this is the third consecutive month-on-month increase, the number of City vacancies last month remained 57 per cent down on that in March 2008.
Morgan McKinley declined to comment on which firms were continuing to pay bonuses, but it is known from public filings that even those banks that have received taxpayer support have paid some staff in excess of basic pay.
In February, Royal Bank of Scotland, now 70 per cent owned by the taxpayer and which has received £20bn in public funds, cut its planned £1bn bonus pool by 90 per cent after pressure from the Government.