Criticism of the banking sector by regulators hasn't stopped New Zealand's top bankers getting pay packages worth millions of dollars this year.
Collectively the current and former chief executives of the four biggest banks — ANZ, BNZ, Westpac and ASB — earned nearly $10 million between them.
For the second year in a row, BNZ boss Angie Mentis is the top paid of the four big bank CEOs earning $3.08m — even after her bonus was cut and her fixed remuneration frozen.
Last week, the board of National Australia Bank, which owns the Bank of New Zealand, announced it had decided its executive leadership team would not get paid a short-term bonus, or get a rise in their fixed remuneration for its latest financial year.
That decision included Mentis, who moved over to take the top job at the New Zealand bank at the start of 2018 from NAB, where she held a top-level role as chief customer officer business and private banking.
NAB's report shows Mentis' statutory remuneration fell from A$3.6m ($3.83m) in 2018 to A$2.91m ($3.08m) in 2019.
Her cash salary still rose by nearly A$100k, increasing from A$1,203,364 to A$1,302,491.
But she wasn't paid a variable reward, which last year earned her A$571,200.
The maximum variable remuneration she could have received in 2019 was A$1.8m ($1.92m).
Mentis' non-monetary benefits also dropped in value falling from A$383,931 to A$309,404. Those benefits include motor vehicle benefits, parking, relocation costs, travel for family members, gifts and other benefits for overseas postings like health fund benefits and tax advice.
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Despite the cut, she was highest-paid executive still employed by the National Australia Bank.
Callum Francis, national organiser for the finance sector for First Union, said the bank CEOs were "absolutely"being paid too much.
"These CEOs, while they play an important role for the business, they earn a phenomenal amount more than their employees."
Francis said the average bank branch worker earned around $60k a year.
"That is a huge discrepancy between $60k and $3m."
He said that money could be used in more productive ways such as boosting staff numbers — particularly in call centres, which were under immense pressure at the moment.
"Having a few extra people in there would make a lot of difference."
He said banks were investing millions of dollars in technology but also needed to reinvest into training their staff to meet the changing future of work.
"Rather than making sure people have the right knowledge, they are just getting rid of them and hiring someone else."
Francis said while he saw the need to pay a premium to the top executive, if it was reduced and the money spread among the other workers it could make "thousands of lives better".
BNZ is the second largest bank in New Zealand by total assets. Reserve Bank figures show as of June 30 BNZ had $105.3 billion in assets on its books, placing it behind ANZ which had $165 billion.
BNZ made a profit of $1.2 billion for the year to September 30, which was slightly down (0.7 per cent) on the prior year.
Banks on both sides of the Tasman have been under immense pressure in the wake of Australia's Royal Commission into misconduct in banking and financial services turned up a raft of issues in the sector.
In November last year the New Zealand government said the banks were "on notice"after a report by regulators the Reserve Bank and the Financial Markets Authority found "significant weaknesses"in the way New Zealand banks govern and manage conduct risks, and changes needed to be made.
Banks had until March this year to come up with individual plans to address specific issues raised by the regulator.
But even those responses didn't impress the regulators, with a further warning to directors and senior management that accountability goes to the top and that big questions remain about culture at a governance level.
Former ANZ New Zealand chief executive David Hisco resigned in June over an expenses scandal. As a result he forfeited A$7.4m in variable remuneration payments.
But he was still paid out a termination benefit worth A$2.1m which was based on accrued annual leave, long service leave and pay in lieu of notice.
His total remuneration was the lowest of the four at $1.7m for 2019. ASB's Vittoria Shortt earned the second highest at $2.46m, followed by David McLean on $2.43m.
Strategic Pay chief executive John McGill said while he hadn't done any analysis of the remuneration packages they didn't seem to be out of line with the labour market.
"As far as I can tell they would reflect the labour market rates of pay for those sorts of jobs."
He said the key thing was that the variable pay reflected the shareholder wishes.
"Financial targets are pretty important for these sorts of roles."
But he said in today's environment businesses also needed to be able to explain the pay of their top executives to other stakeholders including ordinary people, the regulator and Parliament.
He pointed to the ANZ Hisco expenses scandal and said that should never have happened.
"It was an appalling lapse in management of the CEO by the board."
There was a lot less tolerance for poor governance now, McGill added.
He said variable pay and the targets it was linked to was a bigger issue than the total amount.
Bank sales commissions came under fire from regulators in New Zealand and have since been dropped by the bank's for frontline staff.
But McGill said he believed variable rewards that were linked to the right incentives like good customer service should be given to all workers not just executives.
"I think variable pay should be part of everyone's pay. I think that is the way forward."