Shareholders quiz HSBC over pay for executives at AGM

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Shareholders in HSBC yesterday used its annual meeting to confront the bank about its record on executive pay and its planned transfer of 4,000 jobs to Asia.

Shareholders in HSBC yesterday used its annual meeting to confront the bank about its record on executive pay and its planned transfer of 4,000 jobs to Asia.

However, there was some light relief for Sir John Bond, HSBC's chairman. He was presented with a gift by Abdul Durrant, one of the bank's cleaners, who thanked HSBC for raising the hourly pay of contract cleaning workers from £5.50 to £6.10 and for cutting the number of night shifts they had to work.

Mr Durrant, who last year highlighted the plight of low-paid workers on HSBC's payroll, handed over a copy Anthony Sampson's Who Runs This Place?, a study of the Britain's most powerful institutions. He declared: "Although you are a big shot and I am a little shot, you understood."

Sir John, who despite working for HSBC for 42 years is only its eighth best-paid employee, said executive remuneration was a "sensitive subject". Sitting along from him at the meeting at the Barbican, London, was William Aldinger, the head of Household International, the US consumer credit business that HSBC bought last year.

Mr Aldinger's pay package - which included a £12.4m pay-off when HSBC bought the business and an agreement to pay for his dental care for life - caused uproar at HSBC's annual meeting last year. While some shareholders expressed concern again this year, others accepted the bank had assembled a very experienced team. "You have brought in top men in their particular line. If you want the best, you've got to pay the best," one private investor observed. Overall, 95 per cent of shareholders voted in favour of HSBC's remuneration report.

However, there was concern about the bank's intention to transfer 4,000 call centre and processing jobs to Asia by the end of 2006. Michael Mason-Mahon, a shareholder, said HSBC's call centre workers in India were receiving less than £150 a month. "Creating cheap labour in India is very detrimental to the UK. You made £7bn in profits - surely you can find a bit of profit to fund call centres here in the UK?," Mr Mason-Mahon said.

Sir John used yesterday's meeting to strike a warning note about the proliferation of regulations in the UK. "When I joined HSBC, to the best of my knowledge we did not have a single regulator. Today we have over 370. The cost of compliance was approximately $400m (£218m) last year. We are not eager to add to this cost," he said.

Comments