Shareholders give Barclays bosses a tough time

Demonstrators wearing the face of Barclays boss Antony Jenkins outside the bank's annual general meeting Photo: PA Images

Annual general meetings are the time of year when executives stand in front of their company's owners and say "how are we doing?"

A lot of Barclays shareholders are clearly unhappy with the way the bank is being run.

There's always a tendency to grumble on these occasions, but the mood inside the meeting was stormy from the start and at times extremely hostile.

Two months ago, the bank took the decision to reward its staff with bonuses totalling £2.38 billion. That is an increase on the year before, despite a fall in profits.

Pay based on performance? Even the bank agreed it wasn't, but repeatedly explained that it needed to reward its staff or it faced losing talent to its rivals, especially in the United States.

Its an argument that has irritated politicians and is clearly incomprehensible to many of the bank's shareholders.

Barclays boss Antony Jenkins Credit: PA Images

Today the boss, Antony Jenkins, and the rest of the board had to listen to a lot of anger and accusations of "management greed".

One shareholder said he felt investors were being promised "jam tomorrow", while it was "champagne today for bankers".

Pay was an issue, so too was the size of the dividend. Barclays paid its shareholders £859 million but asked them for £5.8 billion in its rights issue last year.

We're paying for Manchester United, we're getting Colchester United.

– A Barclays shareholder complains during today's Annual General Meeting

As one shareholder put it "we're paying for Manchester United, we're getting Colchester United". The joke captured the popular discontent and got a round of applause although he clearly hasn't been watching much football this season.

Protestors outside the Southbank Centre where the AGM took place Credit: PA Images

Antony Jenkins was also facing criticism outside the meeting. A group of protestors from ActionAid wore masks of his face, to protest against Barclays helping businesses set up in tax havens.

Back in the meeting, the board was told it was over-paid and at one stage was asked "why do you think you're worth it?" The chairman, Sir David Walker, gamely responded, his answer was dismissed as "fluffy".

Barclays chairman Sir David Walker, who faced tough questions from shareholders at today's meeting Credit: PA Images

So far, so embarrassing but when it came to the vote the board emerged bruised but victorious.

At one point rebellion was in the air. Standard Life, a very big shareholder, announced it was going to vote against the Directors Remuneration Report. It was joined by many others.

In total one in three Barclays investors failed to back the board on the bonuses it pays its staff.

But every one of the 26 motions was carried, the majority by an overwhelming majority. The pay of directors was approved, so too was the bank's request to pay its staff bonuses of up to two times basic salary in future, in line with new EU rules.

This was a revolt on pay every bit as big as the one this bank faced two years ago over Bob Diamond's bonus award.

Factor in the abstentions and, on the Directors' Remuneration Report, the board won the support of 65.9% of its shareholders . That's a win but not one to boast about.