Wall Street bonuses tumble by 38% in the front office

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Investment banks may be keeping total bonus pools relatively stable this year, but certain front office staff are feeling the pain, with average bonuses down by a whopping 38% this year, according to eFinancialCareers' annual bonus survey.

The research took in responses from over 800 Wall Street professionals who had already been told their bonus payment for 2012.

The overall compensation pools of the major investment banks suggest that banks are doling out decent bonuses to those who produce revenue while giving little or nothing to staff who don’t perform. In most cases, bonus pools have been reduced, but only by between 7% and 20%, not the nearly 40% average reported in our survey. The exception is Goldman Sachs, which increased compensation by 6% to $13 billion.

UBS has beaten down its bonus pool by 42% since 2010, but 2012 payouts have slipped by just 7% year-on-year. Credit Suisse, meanwhile, set aside CHF2.3bn ($2.5bn) or a reduction of 20% on 2011. Deutsche Bank’s bonus compensation pool is down by 11%, J.P. Morgan by 2%, Barclays by 16% to £1.85bn ($2.86bn), Bank of America by a reported 14%, while Morgan Stanley reduced pay by 4% across the group.

Aside from the headline figures there are indications of a lot of unhappy people on Wall Street. Associates have been drowning their sorrows over a few beers, up to 25% of Morgan Stanley’s fixed income traders are believed to have been handed zeros, equity researchers (still officially a front office job) have been largely stiffed and J.P. Morgan has cut pay for traders while portfolio managers received 6% more.

Back office bonuses have held up well this year, falling by an average of just 2%, according to our survey. Employees likely won’t feel much of a pinch in their wallets, though, considering salaries now comprise 80-90% of total pay for back office staff, according to McLagan. Pre-crisis, bonuses accounted for around 30% of total compensation in the back office.

Risk and compliance staff remain in demand, yet middle office bonuses still fell by 15% year-on-year, suggests our survey.

Deferrals are also becoming more common – 23% of respondents to the survey had a proportion of their bonus deferred this year, versus 19% a year earlier.

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