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BNP Paribas hands its London bankers standardised job titles to ensure transparency

Illustration shows BNP Paribas logo

By Sinead Cruise and Stefania Spezzati

LONDON (Reuters) - BNP Paribas is introducing titles to grade hundreds of investment bank employees in the UK, a move to ensure a transparent job evaluation scheme, after a discrimination suit showed a lack of clarity on duties and pay at the French lender.

Investment banks typically use standardised job titles to mark career milestones, starting at analyst and culminating at managing director. BNP instead has alternative designations for some employees, with the bank's most senior UK-based traders and bankers named 'heads of desk' or 'heads of team'.

"BNP Paribas is communicating corporate titles to employees in the London Branch that reflect their existing roles to standardise terminology across all business lines," a spokesperson told Reuters.

A broker at BNP Paribas in London was awarded 2 million pounds ($2.45 million) in January, one of the biggest payouts in a UK equal pay suit. The employment judge ruled that BNP's pay structures were "opaque", adding that BNP acknowleged the lack of clarity increased the risk of discrimination.

Some of BNP's corporate finance and M&A bankers in London have had standard titles since 2016 as the bank sought to reassure clients of the seniority of those looking after them.

The standard titles also helped the lender retain and compete for talent against Wall Street firms.

Its bankers in the United States and the Asia Pacific region already have industry-wide titles. But it's unclear whether the changes will be rolled out across Europe.

The Paris-based lender is Europe's biggest bank, with about 3 trillion euros ($3.17 trillion) in assets.

Deploying standardised job titles should make it easier for employees to understand where they rank on the bank's career ladder. But the revamp is being watched closely by staff who might miss out, according to one London-based trader, who declined to be named.

Individuals currently serving as 'heads of desk' or 'heads of team' who fail to secure 'managing director' titles could be disappointed, the person said.

($1 = 0.9475 euros)

($1 = 0.8167 pounds)

(Editing by Louise Heavens)