HSBC 'rain makers' scoop £62m pool

UK's biggest bank makes record £12bn profit * Investors disappointed at lack of capital return
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The Independent Online

The joint heads of HSBC's fledgling investment bank have pocketed more than £62m between them since they set out to build the business three years ago.

The highest-paid HSBC banker, believed to be Stuart Gulliver, scooped at least £10.2m last year. While less than the £13.6m he made in 2004, that takes his total pay over the past three years to within a whisker of £36.5m.

His co-head of global corporate, investment banking and markets, John "Studs" Studzinski, is believed to have received the next most generous payout in 2005. According to HSBC's 2005 annual report published yesterday, that amounted to at least £8m, almost 9 per cent better than in 2004, but well down on the £10.6m Mr Studzinski swept up in 2003.

Across three years, the former Morgan Stanley rain maker has made just shy of £26m.

His and Mr Gulliver's thumping wages far outstripped the £4.5m awarded last year to the group's best-paid director, the outgoing chairman Sir John Bond. Sir John was paid less than not only Messrs Gulliver and Studzinski, but also three other investment bankers, who collected more than £4.9m each.

Payment within HSBC's nascent investment bank - while eye-catching and easily outpacing remuneration elsewhere across the group - is unremarkable among high-flying investment bankers.

HSBC's Canary Wharf neighbour Barclays pays Bob Diamond, the American head of its booming Barclays Capital division, an eye-watering £15m a year. But unlike BarCap, HSBC's investment bank has struggled to deliver the kind of results expected of Europe's biggest bank.

A flutter of recent high-profile mandates - HSBC is advising the steel maker Mittal on its controversial bid for France's Arcelor - has offered signs that investment banking may be picking up. Fatter bonuses and further cash to build the investment bank saw profits there dip 2 per cent to $5.2bn last year but HSBC reassured shareholders that it would now spend less

Across the group, pre-tax profits jumped 11 per cent to just shy of $21bn (£12bn) - better than expected and a record for any European bank. Muscular performances in Mexico, Turkey and the Middle East led the way. Europe and America did surprisingly well too but Hong Kong disappointed after slower trading and fewer fees.

Profits of $3.8bn at the mainly British HSBC Bank - which includes the former Midland Bank and First Direct - were squeezed by tough competition among the high street lenders. Meanwhile, steeper mortgage payments and stiffer utility bills saw bad debts at HSBC Bank jump to $776m from $371m in 2004.

Overall, HSBC's personal financial services operations, which provide services including mortgages and savings accounts to more than 100 million customers in 77 countries, are doing nicely. Pre-tax profits here were 15 per cent better at $9.9bn.

At $1.36, earnings per share grew by a similar rate. The dividend for the year was 11 per cent better at 73 cents.

Although HSBC's results topped expectations and the shares were chased 14.5p higher to 989.5p, their best since early 2001, some in the City remained lukewarm. They wanted cash to be returned to shareholders, continued to fret over credit quality in the US, reckoned the shares looked expensive compared with the very biggest American banks, and said HSBC was too huge to enjoy a big-money takeover.

Simon Maughan, a banking analyst at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, said: "HSBC has delivered the standout growth in net profits, but the market has blown them a raspberry. I feel sorry for management and that does not happen very often."

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