The difference between an investment banker and a pigeon, the old joke went during the credit crunch, is that a pigeon can put down a deposit on a new Porsche.
It’s not a classic, perhaps, but it was enough to irk many of the jumped-up bookmakers that inhabit the trade, until the shock of nearly bankrupting the planet wore off and they discovered new ways of trousering massive bonuses.
Still, nothing has ever quite been as good in investment banking as in the halcyon days just before the crash, and right now the market is definitely trending back towards tough. Japanese bank Nomura is expected to start axing London jobs, while Wall Street operators such as Bank of America and Citigroup have reported weak performance in their investment banking operations.
None of which fills you with much hope for folk working at Barclays (which has already signalled investment banking setbacks), Royal Bank of Scotland and Standard Chartered – which all report this week.
Added to that, there are the usual worries about Brexit and the impact a vote to leave might have on the City. Stockbroker Hargreaves Lansdown points out: “Very few voices are suggesting it [Brexit] might be a positive [for UK financial services].”
Or, presumably, Porsche dealers.
Hark! Furious shareholders of spring
Another week, another load of rows we can dub shareholder spring 2.0.
After the revolts over pay at oil giant BP, medical equipment group Smith & Nephew and miner Anglo American, this week the City’s troublemakers are looking forward to fixtures at pharmaceutical groups Shire and AstraZeneca, plus the fund manager Schroders, where scraps are almost guaranteed for different reasons.
First, Shire and Astra, where Royal London Asset Management, which holds shares in each, will vote against the pay packages at both companies. The investor’s punchy corporate governance manager, Ashley Hamilton Claxton, will also abstain from supporting the non-executive who chairs the Shire remuneration committee in protest at the group handing chief executive Flemming Ørnskov a 25% rise in his salary to $1.7m (£1.2m). Shire reckons Ørnskov’s pay reflects the $20bn added to Shire’s stock market value since April 2013.
Then we’ve got Schroders, where the fund manager wants to promote its chief executive, Michael Dobson, to chairman. Schroders knows this is not considered ideal corporate governance, as it has voted against similar moves elsewhere many times itself, so there must be some embarrassment among the troops. Or so one, ahem, imagines.
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