Rebrand bonus schemes, urge top City advisers

City firms need to reconsider how they present bonus packages during a downturn, according to top financial PR advisers.

City: seeing a downturn
City: seeing a downturn

This week Chancellor Alistair Darling attacked City executives' bonuses, telling The Daily Telegraph that firms needed to be able to justify payouts to those who seemed to have done little to deserve them.

City advisers said they expected media pressure to continue unless companies 'rebranded' bonuses, or were more forthcoming with information about them.

'Bonuses and large pay packets are given to the very best people and it's a question of making that clear,' said Cubitt Consulting founder Simon Brocklebank-Fowler. 'These top City bosses deserve large pay packets or they will go elsewhere.'

He likened large pay packets to those sporting stars receive. 'The world's number one tennis player Roger Federer makes millions each year, but the world number 200 will only make a few thousand,' said Brocklebank-Fowler. 'If businesses couched it in those terms then it would make sense to people.'

One top City PRO said underperforming businesses should always show that senior staff are prepared to waive bonuses: 'They are earning enough to take the hit - such moves will endear them to staff.'

But College Hill founder Alex Sandberg said the process needed a presentational change.

'Stop calling salaries bonuses. If a bonus is guaranteed, it is a salary and should be presented as such,' he said.

Sandberg added he would advise most companies not to talk in public about wages, but of those that had to, the reasons for large bonuses should be made clear: 'If the bonuses are historic, then they can be justified. Also, even during a downturn, there are parts of the banking world that will perform well.'

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