Bankers' pay packets are swelling as lenders return to profit and bad debts dwindle.
Senior executives at four of the UAE's biggest banking names received double-digit rises in pay, according to their bank's financial statements.
Directors' pay at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank soared by 88.7 per cent to total Dh10.5 million (US$2.85m) while that of key management increased 10.1 per cent to Dh45.8m. Salaries paid to key management at National Bank of Abu Dhabi grew by more than a fifth to Dh78.1m, though directors' fees held steady.
Commercial Bank of Dubai's payroll costs for top management grew 19.4 per cent to Dh20.7m, while RAKBank forked out Dh40.3m in top management pay - a 20 per cent increase on a year earlier.
Emirates NBD bucked the trend, reporting a 23.5 per cent fall in pay to key management to Dh45m and more than halving board fees during the year as the UAE's biggest bank battled rising costs incurred after its acquisition of Dubai Bank in 2011. Emirates NBD has sought to make cutbacks alongside branch and ATM closures following 750 job cuts made early last year.
In contrast to the years during the downturn, when pay increases for top bankers were occasionally out of sync with declines in profit, banks have now recovered from years of dealing with bad debts and are returning billions of dirhams in dividends to shareholders.
As profitability recovers, competition to retain top staff is heating up, according to recruitment firms. However, the financial sector is so far overshooting the pay gains expected to be reported this year at the top ranks of corporations in the UAE.
Mercer, a global consultancy, said last month that it expected pay increases for executives and senior managers at UAE companies to average 5 per cent across all sectors.
However, executives are expected to see bigger salary increases elsewhere in the Arabian Gulf nations, with the UAE lagging an expected 6 per cent pay increase for top-level staff in Saudi Arabia and 5.8 per cent in Qatar.
Across all levels of hiring, staff in the UAE are expected to receive more than double the expected salary increases for counterparts in western Europe.
"Companies however are placing less emphasis on inflation rates when budgeting for pay increases, and factoring such variables as relative pay competitiveness, affordability, labour market conditions and confidence in their business outlook," Zaid Kamhawi, who heads Mercer's survey practice, said at the time.