Banks are sidestepping the rules and offering top staff generous buybacks - again

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Are you a desirable banker? Are you thinking of changing jobs? Would you like your current employer to offer you a generous package to stick around? You're in luck.

Despite being banned by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) in its 2009 remuneration code, headhunters say 'buybacks' are emerging again. However, they only apply to top staff. And they're typically paid entirely in stock and are awarded immediately - instead of at the end of the year as part of a bonus.

"They're rare, but I've seen three or four buybacks recently," says Lee Thacker of search firm Silvermine Partners. "They're usually stock offers, in which the stock vests over a three to five year period. However, banks can be hesitant about offering them because it flies very close to the wind in terms of the regulatory rules."

"Technically, buybacks are no longer allowed," says Christian Robbins at search firm Cherry Bull.  "Buybacks were previously given as guaranteed bonuses at the end of the year, but the FSA banned that a while ago."

Jared Noering, a former senior treasury trader at Deutsche Bank who left in September according to the FCA Register, is said by headhunters to have been offered a generous stock buyback to stay at Deutsche Bank. Deutsche didn't return a request to comment on the matter and we were unable to get in contact with Noering to confirm this.

Nicholas Dent, a partner at law firm Clyde & Co., said buybacks which are paid in the form of a guaranteed bonus are banned by the regulator. However, banks could try and push the rules by offering an immediate retention payment in the form of deferred stock which the wayward employee can't access immediately. "It wouldn't in the spirit of the rules, but nor would it be slap bang against them," he said.



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