European Banks’ Million-Euro Earners Jumped by 33% in 2015

  • Finance professionals paid in pounds gained on exchange rate
  • Ratio of variable to fixed pay increased despite bonus cap

The number of bankers and financiers pulling down 1 million euros ($1.1 million) or more soared 33 percent to 5,142 across the European Union in 2015, the bloc’s banking regulator said.

Bankers based in the U.K. accounted for 80 percent of the highest earners largely driven by appreciation of the pound against the euro, the European Banking Authority said in a report on Thursday. Bankers paid in pounds got a boost relative to their continental peers as the U.K. currency gained 5.4 percent against the euro in 2015, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“In most other countries -- except for Hungary, Finland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Poland, where the number of high earners slightly decreased -- the number of high earners slightly increased,” the EBA said.

The importance of variable pay in bankers’ pay packets increased in 2015, reversing direction from a year earlier, despite a legal limit on bonuses at 100 percent of fixed pay that can be boosted to 200 percent with shareholders’ approval. The ratio of variable to fixed pay rose to 147 percent from 127 percent in 2014, the EBA said. In asset management, the ratio reached 468 percent thanks to “waivers granted in several member states.”

The proportion of high earners tagged as having a material impact on their institution’s risk profile, known as “identified staff,” held nearly steady at 86 percent. While more than 90 percent of top salaries went to identified staff at banks, in asset management the figure was a “relatively low” 64 percent, according to the EBA.

“Competent authorities may approve the exclusion of high earners from the identified staff categories under exceptional circumstances,” the EBA said in its report, adding that it must be informed about such exclusions. “As the EBA has so far received this information for a very limited number of such approved exclusions only, further investigation is currently being conducted.”

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