UK: Barclays bosses grilled by shareholders at AGM
- Credit: AP
BARCLAYS faced the wrath of small shareholders today as it admitted that rebuilding its tattered reputation and overhauling pay will take time.
The bank faced shareholders at its annual meeting in London after a chastening year which included the Libor-rigging scandal and a boardroom clear-out.
But the bank avoided a repeat of last year’s revolt on pay, as its remuneration report was voted through by the bulk of investors.
Just 5.3% of voting shareholders rejected its pay report, rising to 6.4% once abstentions were included. That compared with last year’s “no” vote by almost 27% of investors.
About 1,000 shareholders who attended the AGM at the Royal Festival Hall had to pass airport-style security including sniffer dogs and metal detectors.
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Dozens of shareholders queued up to grill new chief executive Antony Jenkins and chairman Sir David Walker over their plans to win back investors’ confidence and slash generous pay deals.
Sir David, who replaced former chairman Marcus Agius in November, said it was an “extremely difficult” period for the 320-year-old bank.
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“Changing Barclays’ culture is critical if we are to rebuild trust,” he said. “It is without question that in Barclays and more widely in the banking industry, pay became excessive, and we have to deal with it.”
The bank recently admitted 428 workers were paid £1million or more last year, including five who got more than £5 million despite a year of scandal and falling profits.
Today it promised a “rigorous review” of what it pays its highest earners in a series of pledges following a review by top lawyer Antony Salz.
He was commissioned to look at the bank’s culture following its £290 million Libor settlement last year. He found a culture of ‘’overly generous’’ bonuses put profit first, leading some bankers to believe they were ‘’unaffected by the rules’’.
Sir David described the report as “uncomfortable reading’’ and promised Barclays will learn from its findings.
The bank pledged to “get bonus decisions right the first time” and instill “appropriate behaviours”.
Mr Jenkins, who replaced controversial former boss Bob Diamond in August, said Barclays recognises the “dial has shifted” on pay but admitted changing the bank’s culture “will take time”.
“This might not be what people want to hear but it’s realistic,” he said.
Joan Woolard, 75, who travelled from Lincolnshire, earned applause from the audience as she slammed the company’s pay policies.
She said: “A lot of people will be saying ‘Go to hell Barclays’. Because a lot of people regard Barclays and the board as just a bunch of crooks. I do not understand why anybody needs a million pounds to live, even in London.”
Sir David said the board was “sympathetic” to her concerns and “very concerned not to overpay” as he faced a flurry of similar questions on pay and bonuses.
Sir John Sunderland, chair of the bank’s remuneration committee, argued the bank is keen to shift rewards from staff to shareholders, adding Barclays clawed back £300 million in deferred bonuses in 2012.
But he said it is “essential and in your interests that we remain competitive on pay and retain the best talent, but pay them no more than necessary”.
Shareholders queuing up were met with protesters dressed as bankers wallowing in a bath tub of cash and others riding Barclays-branded bicycles and adorned with garlands of money.
Hannah Griffiths, head of campaigns and policy at poverty charity the World Development Movement, said they were protesting about Barclays’ speculation on food prices - something the bank has pledged to withdraw from.
“They are still enabling others to speculate,” she said. “The only way it will fully change is with regulation.”
All resolutions were passed at the AGM.