UK banker bonuses falls to 13,100 pounds on average, still 8 times other workers

LONDON (REUTERS) - Bonuses paid to bankers and financial industry staff in Britain fell last year to 13,100 pounds (S$28,777) on average, down 800 pounds or 6 per cent from the previous year, as tougher rules force a change in pay structures.

Total finance industry bonus payments fell 10 per cent 13.6 billion pounds and are down more than a quarter from their 2008 peak, figures from Britain's Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed on Wednesday, although payouts were still more than eight times the average of 1,500 pounds across all industries.

Since peaking at 18.7 billion pounds seven years ago, bonuses in the financial sector have been capped by European rules, designed to reduce the motivation for risky trades that generated lucrative short-term returns but are blamed for helping create the 2007/09 financial crisis.

Under the EU regulations, payments can be equal to basic annual salaries, or twice that level if shareholders give their permission. Banks have bumped up fixed pay as a result, and are also deferring bonuses and awarding more in shares.

The ONS data cover all of Britain, but the biggest bonuses are paid in London, where UK firms and dozens of the world's biggest banks, insurers and asset managers have thousands of staff. Payouts to top earners such as investment bankers and asset managers can reach millions of pounds while branch staff typically get far more modest rewards.

Cash bonuses across the finance industry last year represented 20 per cent of overall pay in the sector, down from a peak of 34 percent, the ONS said. Bonuses typically make up about 4 per cent of pay in the rest of the economy.

Some 73 per cent of finance industry bonuses were paid during the so-called "bonus season" from December to March.

The ONS said cash bonuses across Britain in the 2014/15 financial year totaled 42.4 billion pounds, up 2.7 per cent from the previous year and just 0.1 per cent below their record level reached in 2007/08.

The drop in finance and insurance industry awards was offset by a 10 per cent annual rise in payouts in the rest of the economy, to 28.8 billion pounds.

The professional, scientific and technical services industry saw the biggest jump in bonuses last year, with average payouts rising to 2,500 pounds from 2,100.