Santander is halfway through a three-year plan to turn around one of Britain's best-known companies, and the chairman, Emilio Botin, is moving to reward executives. He plans to give 3.15 million Santander shares to UK managers if targets are hit.
To scoop the top prize, Abbey managers must ensure the bank makes pre-tax profits of at least £890m this year.
If Abbey hits the target, then about 2.4 million shares will be split between the lucky 185 - starting with Abbey's chief Francisco Gomez-Roldan. Below that level, Abbey staff may find their jobs are at risk.
This is the first incentive scheme lined up for Abbey chiefs since the bank was sold. Santander must get permission from its shareholders before it can put the scheme into operation. Abbey had no comment yesterday. Santander bought the then struggling Abbey National for £9.5bn in 2004. It turned the loss-making outfit into a bank with profits of nearly £600m last year, having rebranding the company simply "Abbey".
Last month, Mr Gomez-Roldan said the first few months of the year had been "very positive" for the bank.
Santander's influence on the UK banking market could extend beyond Abbey. It has been rumoured to have made informal approaches to several other banks.