Friday, 15 January 2010

Select committee snippet

I’ve managed to get hold of the transcript of Stephen Hester’s evidence to the select committee earlier in the week. Having had a read through, I have to say that he comes across much better than the media coverage would have suggested. The ‘holidays’ comment was right at the end, when the session was winding down and, as such, where he might have expected to get away with a slightly less serious comment. Still a bad approach IMO...

Anyway this little exchange between Hester and John McFall is interesting.
Chairman: Yes, but you have a fair idea what is happening at the moment as you come to us. Have institutional investors raised concerns or given you directions on bonuses?

Mr Hester: My summary of the position as I understand it from our institutional investors is that they are all highly conscious of the very difficult challenges that exist in turning RBS around successfully and making them money. They believe that we need highly qualified and motivated people to do that and to compete against people, and they want to make sure we have that. Subject to that, they would like the biggest profits possible and therefore the lowest bonuses.

Chairman: So the answer to my question is they have not raised concerns or given you directions?

Mr Hester: They want us to optimise the balance between having the lowest possible expenses---

Chairman: I think it is a very simple question, Mr Hester. Have they raised concerns or given you directions? That is all I want. Just a simple answer.

Mr Hester: They have raised concerns about our ability to keep and motivate good people. They have raised plenty of concerns
about that, and the institutional shareholders all continue to have rules as it relates to remuneration on the other side.

So McFall is basically asking whether institutions are giving RBS a hard time over bonuses. And the answer seems to be ‘no, they want us to pay a lot’. Right? In other words their principal concern seems to be that RBS doesn’t pay bonuses that are too low.

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