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Our bonus expectations survey reveals two classes of investment bank employee: the unreasonable optimist and the leaden pessimist

Optimistic about your bonus? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Optimistic about your bonus? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Results to our bonus expectations survey are out. 830 people responded. The respondents worked in the front, middle or back office of financial services firms in London. Despite clear indications that this will not be a great year in terms of pay, a lot of people are still looking forward to their bonuses with excitement.

47% of this year’s respondents think their bonus will be larger than last year’s. 17% think it will be more than 50% higher than last year’s. 39% of the bonus optimists think they merit this higher bonus because of their own personal performance.

Are they deluded? Maybe. In May, the CEBR forecast that the City of London bonus pool will be 48% lower this year than it was last year and the average London bonus will be just £9k. At this point, JPMorgan is the only organisation to have revealed pay per head figures for its investment bankers. During the first nine months of 2012, global compensation per head at the bank (including bonuses and salaries) was down 7%.

The crazy optimists unearthed by our survey are, however, counterbalanced by a small and growing group of deep pessimists. This year 17% of the people we surveyed said they expected to receive no bonus. Last year, only 11% were expecting nothing. In 2010 just 7% were.

As we reported yesterday, the zero-bonus bankers working in the front office and collecting big salaries are becoming known as ‘zero zombies.’ They may be more common than expectations suggest: in 2011 UBS paid 17% of its investment bankers no bonus. This year, the proportion of zeroes is expected to be higher.

As for the optimists, their balloons may yet be burst. Last year 46% of people were expecting a bonus increase in September/October, but our follow-up survey after bonuses had been announced revealed that 47% were somewhat or very dissatisfied with their bonuses when they were paid. Those figures seem strangely similar.

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