* Antonio Horta Osorio’s pay package rises by 11 percent
* Total staff bonus pool up 5.5 pct to 415 mln stg
* CEO says “fully committed” to role amid job change speculation
LONDON, Feb 21 (Reuters) - Lloyds Banking Group has awarded its CEO Antonio Horta-Osorio an 11 percent pay rise to 6.42 million pounds ($9 million) in 2017, in a year when the lender’s return to private ownership prompted speculation the chief executive’s job might be done.
Horta-Osorio is credited with transforming Britain’s biggest mortgage lender from financial crisis casualty to one of Europe’s strongest banks, a process that came to an end last year when the government sold its final remaining stake.
The bank rewarded the ambitious Portuguese banker, who took over as CEO in 2011, with a base salary of 1.22 million pounds, 2.26 million pounds in long-term incentives and a 1.32 million pound bonus, on top of additional benefits, a fixed share award of 900,000 pounds and a 565,000 pound pension allowance.
Market watchers have speculated that the turnaround specialist could seek a more challenging role in a bank with a more international presence and bigger commercial ambition, now that UK-focused Lloyds has been rebuilt and returned to private ownership.
But Horta-Osorio earlier said that he remained “fully committed” to the bank and seeing its new strategy put in place.
Shareholder advisory group Pirc, which in 2015 branded Horta-Osorio’s pay as “highly excessive”, was not available to comment.
However, his payout is well below that of his U.S. peers, with JPMorgan Chief Executive Jamie Dimon earning $29.5 million in 2017 and Citigroup boss Michael Corbat paid $23 million.
Lloyds’ pre-tax profit rose to a record 5.3 billion pounds in 2017, paving the way for 3 billion pounds of fresh strategic investment and a potential 1 billion pound share buyback.
It also increased its total staff bonus pool by 5.5 percent to 415 million pounds, pointing to the group’s “strong financial performance” against a backdrop of low interest rates and heightened market volatility since Britain voted to quit the European Union, as well as a 46.9 percent increase in distributions to shareholders.
Bankers’ pay has become a recurring point of public contention in Britain after reckless lending and poor corporate governance at some lenders led to hefty government bailouts when the credit crunch hit the financial sector a decade ago.
Lloyds, which received one of the biggest rescue deals at 20.5 billion pounds, says the amount it pays out in total bonuses is among the lowest of large UK banks.
On Tuesday, Europe’s largest bank HSBC said it awarded departing Chief Executive Stuart Gulliver a pay package of 6.1 million pounds for his final year in charge and grew its total variable bonus pool by 8.8 percent to $3.3 billion. ($1 = 0.7150 pounds)
Reporting by Sinead Cruise and Emma Rumney