Fresh evidence of the pay deals on offer in the City has emerged, with the biggest US bank, JPMorgan Chase & Co, revealing it gave more than 100 of its top staff in London an average of £2m each in 2012.
The banks are required to provide the information about their operations in the UK to comply with an EU rule introduced after the 2008 banking crisis. Banks must give details of the pay of "code staff", those deemed to be taking and managing risk for their organisations.
The details of the pay awards come as new rules from Brussels come into force to restrict top bankers' bonuses to one times their salary – or twice, with the approval of shareholders. Sharon Bowles, the MEP who chairs the European parliament's economic and monetary affairs committee, said the move was intended to change the culture of banking.
"The bankers' bonus cap is part of building a much-needed culture change, putting an end to the sort of short-termism and excessive risk-taking that led to the financial crisis," she said.
Royal Bank of Scotland also gave its new chief executive, Ross McEwan, £1.5m in shares on New Year's Eve as part of a prearranged deal to hire him 18 months ago from Commonwealth Bank of Australia. The move ensures the bailed-out bank's pay policies will receive fresh scrutiny in 2014.
The latest information from JP Morgan – filed just as 2013 was ending, to meet the deadline – shows it had 126 code staff in 2012 who received £41m in "fixed remuneration", such as salaries, and another £222m in "variable remuneration", such as bonuses, half of which was paid in shares that have to be held for two years.
The payments were down on the £2.2m average from 2011 . They were made after the bank reported record net income of $21bn for 2012, despite the losses caused by the so-called London Whale trading scandal, for which the bank has faced action from regulators on both sides of the Atlantic. It has paid fines totalling $920m (£555m) to regulators in the US and the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK as a result of the affair, which the bank's boss, Jamie Dimon, originally dismissed as a tempest in a teapot.
The chancellor, George Osborne, and City regulators are opposing the bonus cap, which came into force on New Year's Day. They argue it will force up the fixed costs of banks because they will raise salaries or pay additional allowances to staff to keep up pay levels – as Barclays has said it plans to do.
The disclosures by JP Morgan about its split between fixed and variable pay - £41m compared with £222m - illustrate the way bonuses are given relative to salaries.
While pay experts expect absolute levels of pay for most bankers will not fall after the bonus cap, they argue it could reduce pay deals for those on boards or on executive committees, one rung below the boardroom, because shareholders will refuse to sanction bigger pay deals for them.
The archbishop of Canterbury this week waded into the debate over pay, telling BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Tuesday: "I don't want to name names but I came across some people recently – senior members of the City from foreign organisations – who were very clearly still absolutely in denial about what happened in 2008."
One outcome of the financial crisis has been demands for more information about bonuses to be published. The European Banking Authority published data in November that showed 2,714 bankers in the UK classified as code staff received more than €1m (£830,000) each in 2012.
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