* CEO earns 6.09 mln stg v. 5.68 mln stg a year ago
* Awarded 4 mln stg worth of shares in long term incentive plan
* Total staff bonus pool up 8.8 percent to $3.3 bln
LONDON, Feb 20 (Reuters) - HSBC has awarded departing Chief Executive Stuart Gulliver a 6.1 million pounds ($8.51 million) 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, who is leaving the bank after more than 37 years' service including seven years at the helm, earned an annual bonus of 2.1 million pounds in 2017 on top of 3.9 million pounds in salary, allowances and benefits.
He was also awarded 4 million pounds worth of shares in a long term incentive plan, in a year that also saw an 8.8 percent rise in the bank's total variable bonus pool, HSBC said in its annual report published on Tuesday.
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 9.7 million pounds 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 percent, 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.
Pirc was not immediately available for comment.
However, Gulliver's 2017 payout is well below that of his U.S. peers, with JPMorgan Chief Executive Jamie Dimon earning $29.5 million in 2017 while Citigroup boss Michael Corbat was paid $23 million.
Europe's largest lender also boosted its total annual bonus pool after a 12 percent 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 1.2 million pounds in his new role, a fixed pay annual allowance of 1.7 million pounds and cash in lieu of pension set at 30 percent 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 U.S. tax changes. ($1 = 0.7155 pounds) (Reporting By Sinead Cruise, editing by Lawrence White)