I Don't Begrudge Stephen Hester A Bonus - Even Though I May Get Laid Off

Check And Pen Mark Csabai

Let's get real here!

I'd been at Royal Bank of Scotland in the markets division for 3 years when Stephen Hester came in as CEO to clear up the mess that Fred Goodwin and his cohorts left behind.

Most of us didn't know who Hester was, only that he came from being CEO of British Land to run one of the biggest basket-cases in the history of financial services. Unbeknown to us, however, he had over 18 years experience in our field, and would turn out to be an inspired choice to run the Group.

The last four years or so have been traumatic for many of us who work at the bank, constantly wondering if we were to be the next heads to be chopped as RBS went through restructure after restructure. Thousands of our colleagues were made redundant, with many still trying to get another job in the industry, or having to come to terms with a life outside of it.

Business units have been sold or closed down, bonuses have (rightly) been cut-back, and the bank and its current and previous executives have been used as a political football, and as scapegoats for the financial crisis.

Above it all, however, has stood Stephen Hester. Quite why this man has remained at the helm, no-one here understands. Here is a man who has proved himself as a top executive, and one who can command a much better-paying and hassle-free job. Yet he has stayed the course and faced off the criticisms and barbs of others less worthy, who seem to forget that he is on their side - and whose main focus is simply to turnaround what's left of the bank and repay the taxpayers who bailed it out in 2008.

Now we have the predictable outcry over whether Hester should take an incentive award of around £800,000, which was granted in 2010, in the light of the LIBOR scandal, where traders appear to have continued to rig interest rates up to 18 months or so after his appointment. It's suggested in some quarters that Hester is partially responsible, as some of the wrongdoing occured on his watch.

Nonsense. At last count, around 17 firms have in some way been implicated or are being investigated over global interest rate rigging, and the CEOs who ran / run those firms had far less on their plates than Hester - and yet they didn't spot what was going on either (and several have bagged very significant bonuses payouts - unlike Hester - over the last few years).

As for me, although I have survived the job axe on a number of occasions over recent years, my days are probably numbered. I have come to terms with the fact that this is probably my last job in the financial markets, and as I don't have enough to retire, I'll have to find something else to do. But, whatever happens, I don't begrudge Stephen Hester his bonus. That man almost single-handedly kept many of us in our jobs these last 4 years or so. If it wasn't for him, the bank would have collapsed like a pack of cards long ago.

If he had left, RBS would most certainly have been fully nationalized, and that would have been the death knell for the employees and for taxpayer.

Instead of slagging this guy off, the politicians and angry brigade should get down on their knees and thank God that there was someone capable like Hester around who was prepared to ignore the critics and take on the job. And at least I got a few more years in the job. Well done, Sir!


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