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Everything you need to know about the 2021 bonus round

How good was the latest bonus round really? If you were a top performer at Goldman Sachs this year, you may have earned up to $30m. If you were a top ranked senior associate at Goldman, maybe you earned $500k. By all accounts, JPMorgan paid well too - but there's plenty of dissatisfaction elsewhere, and headhunters are warning that the highest paying firms are closing ranks.

Goldman Sachs set the pace. It increased average pay per head by 23% for 2021, to $404k, although top performers in the investment banking division were said to benefit from bonus increases of 50% or more. Boutiques like Perella Weinberg and Moelis have also whacked up pay. At Morgan Stanley, however, associates have complained of being underpaid by comparison. At Citi, juniors in the investment banking team have also been griping about what they see as unexpectedly low pay. At Bank of America, bonuses may have been up 40% this year in the investment bank, but there are complaints in equities, where Asian traders in particular are complaining of a mere "single digit" rise in their bonuses despite an outstanding year.

The increases at most U.S. banks may prove generous compared to the Europeans, though. Deutsche Bank and Barclays have yet to announce, but are expected to increase bonuses by 15% and 25% respectively.  Credit Suisse has cut its bonus pool by nearly a third and its juniors are already out there complaining of being underpaid; UBS increased its bonus pool by 20%; HSBC has indicated that it may increase its bonuses by 10% for top performers. French banks may increase bonuses a lot less, despite last week's accidental suggestion from Slawomir Krupa at SocGen that bonuses will be "massive."

On balance, headhunters said the enormous increases at U.S. banks now mean that people at the top U.S. banks are earning 30%-40% more than people in the second tier for what are often very similar roles. This is making it far harder for the Europeans to hire from the Americans, and is creating a snootiness among the U.S. banking elite.

"The top U.S. banks are far less interested in hiring from the second tier than they used to be," says the head of one London search boutique, speaking off the record. "The pay differential is now so wide that it's seen as a quality differential, and there's very little appetite to hire people seen as lower quality."

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Photo by Eyestetix Studio on Unsplash

AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor

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