UBS CEO Has Heated Exchange With Ex-Senior Central Banker

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  • Bank chief says critics often unhappy at their own pay
  • Ermotti was highest-paid executive at lender last year

UBS Group AG chief Sergio Ermotti fired back at a former Bank of England deputy governor who said bankers could cut their own pay instead of complaining about how difficult it is to make money.

“If you have that problem with compensation, let’s have a review of how the economy is compensated and not just pointing at bankers,” said Chief Executive Officer Ermotti in response to a question from Paul Tucker at a conference in London on Thursday. “This is very simplistic and it’s part exactly of the problem that was created by trying to be focused on compensation and only on compensation and mainly by people that were frustrated because they’re not making that kind of money.”

Tucker, who was sitting in the front row, said that bankers “get the profits and the taxpayers get the losses,” referring to UBS’s bailout by Switzerland in 2008. Ermotti, 57, told the ex-central banker that he should “really look at the facts” and that the country made a profit on the rescue.

Last year, the Swiss lender handed out the smallest bonuses in four years. Even so, Ermotti remained the highest-paid executive at the bank, receiving 13.7 million Swiss francs ($11.7 million), down from the 14.3 million francs in 2015.

His comments come after BOE Governor Mark Carney signaled that the U.K. will review a cap on banker bonuses after Britain leaves the European Union. Banker pay has been in focus since the U.K. government was forced to bail out Royal Bank of Scotland Plc and Lloyds Banking Group Plc for a combined 65.5 billion pounds ($88 billion) during the financial crisis. The limit on bonuses inside the EU at twice fixed pay has been around since 2014.

CEOs across Europe have warned employees not to expect big bonuses this year. Credit Suisse Group AG’s CEO Tidjane Thiam, who agreed to accept a lower bonus, said employees shouldn’t think about a big pay rise for 2017.

Tucker, a three-decade veteran of the central bank, left in 2013 after losing out on the top job.

— With assistance by Ambereen Choudhury, and Patrick Winters

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