NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Bank of America ( BAC) is taking a subtle new tack as it tries to recruit talented executives away from rivals: Pay them in cash.

Last year, the bank's highest paid executives received just 5% of their compensation in cash, with the rest in restricted stock, according to The Wall Street Journal.

For 2010 pay, which is just being awarded now, the cash portion of compensation will rise to 20%-30%, the newspaper reports. That's because the bank has paid back the $45 billion bailout it got from the government and as a result is no longer subject to federal pay restrictions.

Bankers from rivals outside the U.S., including Nomura's head of investment banking, griped to the Journal that looser pay restrictions in the U.S. are making it harder for other companies to compete, but the Journal writes that Bank of America's compensation structure is "strikingly similar" to that of Credit Suisse ( CS).

JPMorgan Chase ( JPM), on the other hand, will pay a much higher 50% in cash in some cases, the Journal reports.

Paying executives in stock is an attempt to get them to about the long-term success of the company they work for, rather than taking on risky bets in the hope of generated quick profits, cashing in their bonus checks and moving on before those bets blow up. It's not clear how well those incentives work, though. Bear Stearns boss Jimmy Cayne, his Lehman Brothers counterpart Dick Fuld and many of their inner circle lost millions in stock when their firms blew up, but apparently that threat wasn't sufficient to convince them to exercise caution in their business judgments.

Alan Johnson, a Wall Street compensation consultant who counts Goldman Sachs ( GS), Morgan Stanley ( MS), JPMorgan and Citigroup ( C) among his clients, believes U.S. regulators have been less strict of late on regulation than their European counterparts. That is true with regard to pay, capital, or other issues, he says. However, he sees the lightest touch in Asia, which he believes will lure lots of financial companies seeking more freedom from government restrictions.

"I was on a call this morning and Hong Kong must have come up 10 times," he said.

-- Written by Dan Freed in New York.
Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors, reporters and analysts from holding positions in any individual stocks.

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