UK

Barclays Shareholders Warn Bank It Is 'Telling Customers To Go To Hell'

24/04/2014 12:51 BST | Updated 24/04/2014 15:59 BST

Barclays is "telling customers to go to hell" rather than becoming the "go to" bank, shareholders warned bank bosses during an angry annual general meeting in London today.

Barclays bosses faced shareholder anger as a succession of speakers were applauded when they criticised the bank's remuneration policy. One mockingly asked if the bank's overdraft fees were a sign that Barclays should "get ready to merge" with payday loan giant Wonga. Barclays recently defied calls for restraint over its executive pay and bonuses by hiking its staff bonus pool by 10% to £2.38 billion despite profits falling by a third and plans to cut thousands of jobs.

Shareholder Edward O'Toole first shook up proceedings at the AGM when he said that Barclays' culture had changed from "banking prudence to one of management greed".

Barclays shareholder Phil Clarke hit out at the excessive level of pay and bonuses given the bank's performance, saying: "We're paying for Manchester United but we're getting Colchester Utd." Another expressed fury about bonuses going to "a bunch of people who should be in prison not in bonus street", while another fumed that it was "jam tomorrow for investors but champagne today for investment bankers".

The AGM comes days after business secretary Vince Cable wrote to the UK's top 100 listed businesses warning them that continuing with high levels of executive pay was a "dereliction of duty".

Barclays chief executive Antony Jenkins will receive up to £1 million in share allowances on top of salary and bonuses in a step which avoids the EU bank bonus cap, which limits bonuses at twice the level of pay.

Barclays' pay plans has also been criticised by the Institute of Directors, which complained that the bonus pool for 2013 at almost £2.4 billion was nearly three times the £859 million paid out in dividends to shareholders.

Barclays' AGM was hit by protests as shareholders queued outside Royal Festival Hall, with protesters from Actionaid calling for Barclays to declare its full profits and to stop using tax havens. The World Development Movement protested against Barclays speculating on food prices and funding coal producers. Other protesters came out to call for a financial transaction tax, better known as a Robin Hood Tax.

Barclays 2014 AGM Protests

A representative from Standard Life, a large Barclays shareholder, warned at the AGM that it would vote against the bank's pay policies.

"We are unconvinced that the amount of the 2013 bonus pool was in the best interests of shareholders, particularly when we consider how the bank's profits are divided amongst employees, shareholders and ongoing investment in the business," Standard Life said. "We also believe that this decision has had negative repercussions on the bank's reputation."

Sir John Sunderland, outgoing head of the bank's remuneration committee, insisted that bonuses fell last year and that Standard Life should make its complaint in private for its consultation rather than in public.

When Sunderland asked if Barclays pays more than it needs to, he received cries of "yes" from investors in response.

CEO Antony Jenkins recently warned that the bank had to increase its bonus pool in February, despite a 32% drop in annual profits to £5.2 billion and plans to cut up to 12,000 jobs, in order to avoid a "death spiral" as investment bankers move elsewhere.

Speaking at the annual general meeting, Jenkins said: "I am impatient to deliver the performance, and the dividend, you deserve - sustainable, predictable performance though the whole cycle. I am impatient to drive forward our cost reduction programme."

"And I am impatient to see growth across the Group. Of course, we face significant challenges. I said at the time of Transform that progress would not be uniform or linear in a programme of this scale and ambition."

Barclays chairman Sir David Walker told shareholders that he did not expect bonuses to rise again if bankers did not earn it. He told shareholders that "the decision on pay this year was among the hardest that we have had to take".

He said the annual rise in the bonus pool was affected by the pay-outs being hit in the previous year in the wake of the Libor rate-rigging scandal - and even said that the cuts in 2012 has gone "too far".

He told the meeting: "A core parameter for the intensive review of strategy for the bank that we are now close to concluding is that the investment bank has to deliver on a sustainable basis the performance and returns profile which our shareholders rightly expect."

"On this basis your board and I do not intend or expect to face again a similar set of circumstances that led to the very difficult decisions we had to take last year."