Cover of MoneyWeek magazine issue no 520

Powering up

13 January 2011 / Issue 520

Cash in on energy efficiency


  • Three tech trends that will change your world
  • Buy the US and Japan – here's why
  • The return of Mary, Queen of Shops


Don’t just bash the bankers

It is impossible to underestimate just how out-of-touch the UK’s top bankers are with the rest of us. Consider the case of Lord Jones, chairman of HSBC’s advisory board. He’s cross that people aren’t being nicer to bankers. He’s particularly upset that, despite the fact that a couple of them didn’t take bonuses in 2009, “not one jot of praise… came their way”.

Hmmm. To me it rather looks like he has this all the wrong way around. Why would we praise someone for not taking an undeserved reward? That’s the way it is supposed to be. Most people consider a bonus to be something you get sometimes for doing particularly well, not something you get every year however appallingly your business might be doing. We’d call the latter thieving from your shareholders. So to praise this lot for not taking a bonus in a year in which they were in part responsible for a global credit crisis, and in the process of being bailed out by taxpayers, really wouldn’t make much sense.

However, in all the fuss about the ludicrously self-centred behaviour of the financial services sector, we are forgetting that they aren’t the only ones thieving from us. Stand up UK corporate bosses. FTSE 100 bosses now earn 88 times the median wage. That’s up from 47 times a decade ago. Their total rewards also rose 55% last year, to an average of £4.5m.

• Read the full editor’s letter here:
Don’t just bash the bankers

Follow Merryn on Twitter