UniCredit to assess CEO pay rise ahead of general meeting

Andrea Orcel poses with an award at the 2016 IFR Awards event in LondonAndrea Orcel poses with IFR's 'Bank of the Year for 2015' award at the 2016 IFR Awards event in London, Britain in this handout photograph shot January 27, 2016 and provided to Reuters January 22, 2020. IFR/Simon Wagner/Handout via REUTERS

  • Orcel paid more than most European peers – analysts
  • No reward for over-performance under current set-up
  • Executing commercial turnaround, failed to strike M&A deal

MILAN, Dec 3 (Reuters) – UniCredit (CRDI.MI) will reassess the remuneration of CEO Andrea Orcel ahead of its 2023 general meeting to see if the results achieved by Italy's second-biggest bank in 2021-2022 warrant an increase, a document on its website showed.

UniCredit Chairman Pier Carlo Padoan said in an emailed comment late on Friday that the bank's remuneration committee would make a recommendation to the board on the CEO's pay "incorporating views of investors and wider stakeholders," adding the CEO himself had not asked for a raise.

UniCredit's latest remuneration report noted that the CEO's current pay structure and a regulatory ceiling – that caps variable pay at twice the fixed amount – prevented the bank from rewarding over-performance when targets were exceeded.

"The board examined Orcel's pay package in light of the important performance reached in 2021 under his leadership," the report said. "Orcel separately indicated … he prefers to keep his fixed pay unchanged and have his variable pay closely linked to performance goals," it added.

"The board agrees … and will reassess Orcel's pay ahead of the 2023 general shareholder meeting in light of results and progress made in 2021 and 2022," it concluded.

The former head of investment banking at UBS (UBSG.S) arrived at UniCredit in April 2021, vowing to reverse a phase of "active retrenchment" under the risk-averse previous CEO Jean Pierre Mustier.

Orcel is turning the bank around from a commercial point of view, but he has so far failed, like his predecessor, to strike a merger and acquisition deal.

After dropping the proposed takeover of smaller rival Monte dei Paschi (BMPS.MI), Orcel pledged to return more than 16 billion euros in dividends and buybacks to investors by 2024. He maintained the bank could hit the distribution goal even in a severe recession after the Ukraine war and energy crisis prompted banking supervisors to call for caution.

On his arrival at UniCredit, Orcel narrowly dodged a shareholder revolt over his pay, which is double that of Mustier, with leading investor advisory firms again raising concerns over his salary in March.

Annual pay of up to 7.5 million euros makes Orcel one of Europe's best paid bank executives, analysts say.

Orcel's distribution promise lifted UniCredit shares to a four-year high of 15.7 euros before the war, from 8.5 euros just before he took over, giving the CEO ammunition for potential M&A deals paid for in shares.

But the bank's large exposure to Russia, a business Orcel has so far held on to, has seen its shares ease again, to close on Friday at 12.5 euros.

The Financial Times first reported UniCredit sought a pay hike for Orcel citing people familiar with the matter.

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