HSBC pays out £2.6bn in bonuses as profits more than double

Banking giant HSBC has handed out a mammoth 3.5 billion US dollars (£2.6 billion) in bonuses as it revealed annual profits more than doubled.

The group hiked its staff bonus pool by nearly a third, up from 2.7 billion US dollars (£2 billion) in 2020, while chief executive Noel Quinn picked up a total pay package of £9 million for 2021.

HSBC’s annual report showed that the group’s boss landed £4.9 million in pay and bonuses, as well as £4.1 million in long-term performance share awards.

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The bumper payouts came as HSBC reported pre-tax profits of 18.9 billion US dollars (£13.9 billion) for 2021, up from 8.8 billion US dollars (£6.5 billion) in 2020, when pre-tax profits fell 34% due to hefty provisions for pandemic loan losses.

HSBC has reported its annual pre-tax profit more than doubled to 18.9 billion US dollars (£13.9 billion) for the year ending December 31.

It comes as the results season confirms a lucrative year for banker bonuses, following NatWest’s move to increase its bonus pot for staff from £200 million to £298 million, while emerging markets-focused group Standard Chartered hiked awards by 38% to 1.4 billion US dollars (£1 billion) for 2021.

HSBC results have been buoyed as it joined fellow banks in releasing bad debt cash set aside in the early days of the pandemic after defaults have proved lower than feared across the sector.

It released 900 million US dollars (£663 million) last year, having taken a charge of 8.8 billion US dollars (£6.5 billion) a year earlier.

This boosted its figures, with results likewise helped higher by surging commercial banking revenues.

The firm also brought forward a key profitability target by a year thanks to rising interest rates worldwide as central banks tackle surging inflation.

There was also cheer for investors as the group approved a second interim dividend of 0.18 dollars (£0.13) per share, making a total for 2021 of 0.25 dollars (£0.18) per share as all regions reported a profit.

It added it would buy back up to one billion US dollars (£736 million) of its own shares after completing the two billion US dollar (£1.5 billion) previous share buyback programme.

Figures showed HSBC’s UK pre-tax profits rose by 4.5 billion dollars (£3.3 billion) to 4.8 billion dollars (£3.5 billion), while its Asia operations increased by 12.2 billion dollars (£9.3 billion).

Mr Quinn said the results reflected the global economic recovery from the pandemic.

He said: “We made good progress against our strategy in 2021, which contributed to a strong financial performance that was supported by the global economic recovery. All of our regions were profitable and we saw growth in the fourth quarter of 2021 in many of our business lines.

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“We have good momentum coming into 2022 and are confident that we can continue to execute against our strategy.

“We also remain cognisant of the potential impact that further Covid-19 related uncertainty and continued inflation might have on us and our clients.”

The annual report showed that Mr Quinn and other executive directors donated their base salary increases for 2021 to charity – amounting to £22,000 for Mr Quinn – “given the ongoing challenging external environment”.

Chief finance officer Ewen Stevenson – whose total pay packet jumped to £3.7 million for 2021, plus £2.4 million in long-term share awards on top – also donated his £112,000 fixed pay allowance increase to charity.