ABN bankers' best bet is redundancy

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News that RBS won't be buying out deferred bonuses suggests ABN bankers can only cash in immediately if they're given the chop.

Back in October we speculated on the riches that might await ABN AMRO bankers if RBS were forced to buy out their lavish programme of deferred cash bonuses.

Unsurprisingly, it seems that ABN bankers did a little speculation of their own and are now disgruntled to find that their new owners won't be paying up after all.

The unfortunate news comes courtesy of Het Financieele Dagblad, which ran an article earlier this week saying that Dutch bankers at ABN were threatening to revolt over an alleged 535m of loyalty bonuses normally paid out over three years. ABN bankers want to be paid now; RBS is apparently sticking to the original schedule.

The article makes no reference to ABN AMRO's KEEP programme, under which a large proportion of bonuses over €100k has traditionally been deferred, but London-based ABN bankers assure us this is what all the fuss is about.

"A takeover is a big dislocation for everyone and the new employer is not the one people chose," says one. "It's therefore argued that retained payments should be paid out immediately in the event of a takeover. This is what it boils down to."

Given that RBS looks unlikely to take much notice of this sentiment, one headhunter says ABN bankers could benefit from being made redundant. "Accrued payments will be honoured immediately for ABN staff who are let go," he says.

Unfortunately, he says ABN is unlikely to make too many cuts in London. "The only crossover will be in the fixed income side of global markets - RBS don't have a cash business and are looking to build an equity derivatives business."

In the mean time, existing KEEP payments are likely to dissuade rival banks from poaching dissatisfied ABN types: "Buying out those retained bonuses makes ABN staff extremely expensive," says the headhunter. "Most banks won't touch them with a barge pole."

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