Royal Bank of Scotland staff to share £177m windfall

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The soaraway success of Royal Bank of Scotland shares will see the company's employees share some £177m when a share-save scheme matures later this year.

Staff who saved the maximum £250 a month in the scheme, begun in July 1995, are to make a profit of more than £121,000, a spokesman for the bank said yesterday. Since its launch, the shares have risen from 400p to close up 34p yesterday at 2,044p.

More than 33,000 staff at Royal Bank of Scotland and National Westminster Bank have share-save plans maturing this year. About £120m of the fund being paid out will go to 23,000 NatWest staff moved into RBS schemes after the bank's acquisition in 2000.

The payouts to staff come as banking chiefs come under increasing scrutiny over their bumper pay packages.

Barclays caused a storm of protest, leading to stiff questioning from shareholders and customers at its annual meeting last month, after recently agreeing a three-year pay deal for its chief executive, Matt Barrett, worth at least £10m. The deal included a doubling of Mr Barrett's annual pension contributions to almost £1m. Unifi, the banking union, said such a salary defied belief.

Fred Goodwin, RBS's chief executive, earned £1.57m in salary and bonuses last year and received 43,700 share options.

Mean average salaries in the banking industry are only about £15,000, although the figure is distorted by the large numbers of part-time staff.

The wide gulf between executives' and employees' pay is expected to be high on the agenda when representatives from the Big Four banks – Lloyds TSB, Barclays, HSBC and RBS – face the Treasury Select Committee today. Mr Barrett once told the Committee he was a "bargain".