Bank execs challenge Dutch society on salary bonuses
A Tweede Kamer hearing about remuneration in the financial sector became confrontational between MPs and three major companies’ executives Tuesday. Speaking in the lower house of parliament, representatives from ABN AMRO, Aegon and ING attempted to convince the public of the need to pay their staff market-based salaries to attract qualified managers, reports NOS. ABN AMRO supervisory board chair Rik Van Slingelandt said good managers were scarce and that he was highly concerned about what would happen when ABN AMRO's current top management retired. Breuking mentioned that 15 people in key positions had been lost due to relatively low salaries. Van Slingelandt said at the beginning of the hearing that ABN AMRO had underestimated the public outcry about the issue. “Rewards are a sensitive issue, and we understand that. If you look at the facts, I can only conclude that the salaries are moderate,” he is quoted as saying by NOS. “Nevertheless, I regret the commotion that arose”. “But we also have to defend our position on the labour market. We have to prove to be a good employer,” he later added. ING corporate governance committee chair Henk Breuking emphasized to the MPs that the wages of ING's board of directors had fallen significantly. He said that the wages were now 40 percent less than at comparable institutions, which impacted the international competitiveness of the bank. “From the Dutch perspective, the salaries are sometimes seen as scandalous, while our American colleagues are saying: 'Pay people more,'” Aegon supervisory board member Leo Van Wijk is quoted saying. “You must show your appreciation, because you are paying them way below the norm.” The public reaction is linked to the state involvement with the companies in question. ABN AMRO has been a state-owned bank since 2009. ING received a major capital injection from the Dutch government to lift its capital ratio. Aegon received a three-billion injection in 2008 from the Dutch central bank (DNB) and the government to create a capital buffer for the company.