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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Kalyeena Makortoff Banking correspondent

TSB and Santander staff bonuses could be hit after City fines

Santander's Slough branch
Santander said the bonus pot (last year worth £213m) will ‘take any fines into account’ Photograph: Maureen McLean/Rex/Shutterstock

Bankers at TSB and Santander UK are at risk of having their annual bonuses slashed after the high street lenders were hit with multimillion-pound fines by the City regulator last month.

The retail banks’ respective pay committees are currently deliberating how much money to allocate to staff-wide bonus pools, and are understood to be taking penalties related to failings around TSB’s IT meltdown in 2018, and Santander UK’s anti-money laundering controls, into account.

This could mean that Santander UK’s roughly 20,000 staff – including executives – could be forced to share less than the £213m they collectively took home in bonuses last year.

The Financial Conduct Authority fined Santander £107.7m in early December after discovering “serious and persistent gaps” in its money laundering controls, resulting in £298m of suspicious transactions passing through business customer accounts between 2012 and 2017.

Santander would not confirm whether any current or former executives would face targeted cuts to their bonuses as a result of last month’s penalty, but said: “The bonus pool is determined taking into account performance against a balanced scorecard of metrics. This will take any fines into account.”

Meanwhile, TSB’s 5,700 staff and its top bosses are waiting to hear whether they will split less than the £27m they were paid in bonuses last year, after the FCA hit the bank with a much-delayed fine over a botched IT migration that left millions of banking customers locked out of their accounts for weeks in 2018.

The regulator fined the bank £48m in mid-December for “widespread and serious” failings related to the debacle, which arose as part of its separation from its former parent company, Lloyds Banking Group.

Any cut to TSB’s variable pay pool could end up strengthening its unions’ calls for higher wages, given that 2023 pay negotiations are currently under way.

“Clearly, at this time of year, TSB staff are interested in what their variable pay award will be,” Ged Nichols, the general secretary of the Accord union, said. “These issues are part of our ongoing discussions with TSB. We hope to be able to reach an agreement with the bank in principle relatively soon so we can put it to our members for a final decision.”

TSB said: “The final decision about the variable pay award will be made by the remuneration committee later this month and announced when we publish results.”

However, targeted cuts to executive bonuses are unlikely. All of the executives who worked at the bank in 2018 have since left TSB, and had their own bonuses for 2018 cancelled in light of the meltdown.

Metro Bank’s pay committee will also be forced to consider whether its own staff and executive bonuses should be affected by a £10m fine announced last month in relation to its 2019 accounting scandal.

The regulator’s three-year investigation concluded that Metro misled investors, and failed to properly notify them after discovering it had erroneously classified £900m of loans as less risky than they actually were.

Metro Bank declined to comment.

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