With banks like HSBC and Deutsche Bank hiking salaries for junior staff to match last year's salary increases at big U.S. investment banks, it's becoming increasingly easy to predict how much you'll earn as a 'front office' banker in your 20s and 30s. Top performing first and second year associates with four and five years' experience in M&A and sales and trading jobs are now regularly earning packages of $200k (£150k).
However, you don't have to work in archetypal front office roles to make big money in finance. Recruiters point out that there are various other banking jobs that will bring in big rewards too. And they're not necessarily what you'd expect.
You can earn $200k (£150k) within four years in finance recruiting
"It took me around four years to make £150k," says one senior London financial services recruiter, speaking on condition of anonymity. "Recruitment is the same as any sales job," he adds. "It's meritocratic and you get a cut of what you make. If you bring the business in, you'll make £150k irrespective of whether you have two or ten years' experience."
Don't get too excited. If you don't bring the business in you will naturally be paid less. Just because you make £150k one year, you may not make that the following year.
You can earn $200k (£150k) straight after a PhD in Big Data
Big Data is the hot new area in financial services recruiting. One financial services recruiter, also speaking on condition of anonymity, says investment banking and high frequency trading firms in Chicago, New York and London are locked into competition with internet companies liked LinkedIn, Quora and DropBox for Big Data talent. "We have one or two clients who will pay $200k to straight PhD researchers," he tells us. Some of the most desirable candidates have worked for IBM's Watson Lab, or on earthquake analysis and prediction. "Seismologists have experience of using large data sets," says the recruiter. "That makes them extremely relevant to firms analyzing large sets of trading data."
You can earn $260k (£170k) after five years in leveraged finance
Leveraged finance professionals used to be M&A professionals' poor relations. That's all changed. Now that leveraged finance pros are wanted by investment banks and hedge funds and private equity funds, banks are having to hike their pay. One lev fin recruiter who's in the process of assembling a pay survey on her sector (watch this space), said second year leveraged finance associates at top banks are now earning anything from £140k to £170k. "They're a bit of a finance commodity and are in big demand," she adds.
You can earn $260k+ (£170k) after four years as an economist in an investment bank
Economists also feature among the unsung earners of the banking industry. Chris Apostolou at Arbitrage Search says "really good economists" will be earning £200k ($305k) by the time they're 30 - maybe even before. "We just placed an economist with eight years' experience in a $350k role on Wall Street," he claims.
Apostolou adds that the UK's 'unbundling' rules have been good news for banking economists. "Now that research revenues are distinct from trading revenues, economists are able to point to how much money they're bringing in and to ask for a share. They're seen as revenue generators rather than costs."
Unfortunately, it's pretty difficult to become an economist in a top investment bank. Apostolou says most global teams are only comprised of 20 people and there's very little movement between them. "Working as an economist is a nice, stable, secure job," he tells us. "You won't make the big highs that traders get, but nor will you get the layoffs and the big lows."
You can earn $340k (£224k) after 10 years in anti-money laundering
You'll have to wait longer for gigantic pay in anti-money laundering, but it will come. AML used to be a bit of a backwater in compliance, but with giant fines at HSBC and Standard Chartered it's suddenly become a hot topic. Tomas Strelczak, compliance recruitment manager at Robert Walters, says anti-money laundering pay has increased faster than other areas of the compliance market in recent years. "It's an incredibly in-demand area, a lot of teams are building out headcount considerably," he tells us.