HSBC has awarded departing chief executive Stuart Gulliver a £6.1m pay package for his final year in charge, teeing up a possible clash with investors who have challenged the lender's largesse for years.

Gulliver is leaving the bank after more than 37 years' service including seven years at the helm.

He earned an annual bonus of £2.1m in 2017 on top of £3.9m pounds in salary, allowances and benefits. 

He was also awarded £4m worth of shares in a long term incentive plan, in a year that also saw an 8.8% rise in the bank's total variable bonus pool, HSBC said in its annual report published today. 

HSBC said the payout reflected the fact that Gulliver had hit four-fifths of his individual performance targets, which included reducing the bank's global sprawl and maintaining tight controls on risk and regulatory compliance. 

He earned a total potential pay package of £9.7m a year earlier, after successfully cutting costs and offloading unwanted assets, despite missing a profit target. 

The payout could spark a fresh remuneration row with some of the bank's most frugal shareholders, who have demanded tighter reins on boardroom pay and bonuses against a backdrop of rising expenses and underwhelming returns. 

In 2016, the bank changed its pay policy for executive directors, lowering the top amount that could be earned by 7%t, but objections to oversized payouts have continued. 

UK-based investor body Pirc blasted the lender in 2017 for awarding Gulliver a benefits package it labelled as "excessive", pointing out a ratio of executive pay to average employee remuneration of 102:1.

However, Gulliver's 2017 payout is well below that of his US peers, with JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon earning $29.5m in 2017 while Citigroup boss Michael Corbat was paid $23m. 

Europe's largest lender also boosted its total annual bonus pool after a 12% cut last year the wake of dwindling revenues. This year staff will share a pot of $3.3 billion, compared with $3.04 billion a year earlier. 

HSBC said Gulliver's successor John Flint, currently head of the bank's wealth management and retail banking division, would earn a salary of £1.2m in his new role, a fixed pay annual allowance of £1.7m and cash in lieu of pension set at 30% of salary. 

The bank's pre-tax profit for 2017 more than doubled due to the absence of hefty restructuring costs incurred in the prior year but still lagged expectations following writedowns stemming from US tax changes.