Magazine Admits Some of You Aren't Pigs

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If you're tired of being caricatured as a fat-cat "executive" just because you work for a big-name financial institution in any capacity, relief is here. BusinessWeek just acknowledged that life is tough for financial services workers, too - even admitting that "big payouts are the exception, not the rule."

The magazine portrays some Wall Street employees sympathetically - a rarity in mainstream media accounts since taxpayer-funded bailouts began more than a year ago.

"For us, it's not what you read in the headlines" about huge bonus checks, an unnamed 20-something Barclays Bank worker in New York City told BusinessWeek. The story also quotes a laid-off bank IT project manager - since relaunched with his own consulting business - who says the finance industry employs some "honest and qualified business people who need to be remunerated well," and who even - gasp! -"should be able to get bonuses."

While noting that Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan's investment bank are expected to pay record bonuses totaling about $29.7 billion for this year, the story says: "In the banks' back offices, many other workers - including those in technology services, human resources, and support departments - face layoffs, outsourcing, and reduced pay....For the most part, support staffers who have managed to keep their jobs in financial services face stagnant or falling compensation."

Vulnerable to Cost-Cutting

Well, maybe not falling compensation. The U.S. Labor Department wage numbers BusinessWeek cites extend over all "financial services workers" - an over-broad grouping more reflective of Main Street bank tellers than Wall Street operations or PR departments. A more representative series shows that average hourly pay for production workers within "securities, commodity contracts (and) investments" climbed 5.4 percent over the 12 months through September, to $32.40.

But there's no doubt that many in the industry remain under pressure - especially professionals who aren't in revenue-generating positions. As Washington-based compensation analyst Christian Britton of PRM Consulting told BusinessWeek, support staff usually aren't even eligible for big year-end incentives. They're also the most expendable when management feels a need to cut expenses. Financial services and insurance services firms in North America inked twice as many outsourcing deals in this year's third quarter as in the second quarter, according to Everest Group, an outsourcing consulting firm in Dallas.

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