The anger over massive banker pay turned its focus to Barclays last night as it emerged that major shareholders had urged it to rein in bonuses this year.
Sources confirmed the powerful Association of British Insurers held a meeting with Barclays' remuneration committee early this week to take issue with reported plans to pay millions of pounds of bonuses to a handful of senior directors.
It is thought the total bonus pot for bankers at Barclays could top £1bn.
Sky News reported that the shareholders demanded reduced pay deals, threatening to vote against the company's remuneration report if the bank did not comply. Bob Diamond, chief executive, is thought to be in line for a bonus of at least £3m.
News of the discussions came a day after reports said Mr Diamond was next week going to inform Barclays Capital staff their pay was to be as much as 30 per cent down on a year ago.
The ABI's involvement is important as its members channel billions of pounds of Britons' savings into FTSE 100 companies.
Barclays took its time in the spotlight as Sir Philip Hampton, chairman of the taxpayer-backed Royal Bank of Scotland, admitted yesterday that bankers' pay was "too high".
Speaking for the first time since he gave up his £1.4m share award and chief executive Stephen Hester waived his £963,000 bonus,
Sir Philip said: "Pay has been high for too long, particularly in investment banks. Shareholders have done pretty badly and bankers have done pretty well."
His admission came as the industry braced itself for another month of "banker-bashing" headlines as Britain's banks begin unveiling their full-year profit figures.
Sir Philip said he believed that banker pay would come down from its current too-high levels: "That needs to be corrected. It actually isn't a society or fairness issue, it's a straightforward business issue. Too much of the money has not been going to the right place. There will be a correction to bring bank pay properly into line with other businesses."
Mr Diamond is preparing to give BarCap staff the bad news. It will mean pay for those at "vice president" level falling from as much as $750,000 (£474,000) to about $650,000, sources confirmed. He is also expected to announce a cull of about 5 per cent of staff.
Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, Citigroup and even Goldman Sachs have reduced pay levels as revenue has slowed. On Thursday, Deutsche Bank told staff it was cutting investment banker pay by 15 per cent.
Sir Philip claimed the industry was dealing with its high-on-the-hog living. "It's in the process of changing. Pay is falling in this industry and has been in recent years."
However, he admitted pay was coming down "perhaps not as fast as some people would like". Sir Philip denied he and his board had ever threatened to resign at the government's stance on the bonuses.
He added: "It was certainly my decision that Stephen Hester should get this bonus."