(Bloomberg) -- UBS Group AG Chief Executive Officer Sergio Ermotti’s 14.4 million Swiss franc ($15.8 million) pay for last year is justified on the basis of his success in the work so far to integrate Credit Suisse, the bank’s chairman said. 

“The board has recognized the excellent performance of Sergio Ermotti during a defining year in UBS’s history,” Chairman Colm Kelleher said at the bank’s annual general meeting in Basel, Switzerland on Wednesday. “He arguably has the toughest job in the financial services globally.”

While falling well short of Wall Street levels, Ermotti’s compensation for the nine months of 2023 after he returned to lead the Zurich-based lender made him the best-paid European bank CEO. The award has caused concern in Switzerland, with finance minister Karin Keller-Sutter saying it exceeds “the imagination of any normal citizen.”

“Considering his outstanding contribution, the board and I personally believe he deserves to be paid roughly 10% more compared to his predecessor,” Kelleher said. “We will never pay what US banks pay. But the board and I are responsible to do everything to make UBS successful, this does include insuring the long term competitiveness including for our CEO position.”

Ermotti’s compensation included 12.3 million francs in variable pay. While boosting awards for the top bench, UBS cut its global bonus pool for 2023 by 14% reflecting a tougher year for deal-makers and traders. For 2022, previous CEO Ralph Hamers received received 12.2 million Swiss francs.

The pay policies of the bank came in for immediate criticism from shareholders. Vincent Kaufmann, head of the proxy organization Ethos Foundation, said the compensation policy of the bank was not in the best interests of shareholders. 

Fritz Peter, a shareholder, told the audience that the bank’s policy was “completely incomprehensible.”

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