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When a doughnut is bad for more than just your waistline

The banking torso

The banking torso

Another year of “doughnut” (zero) or next-to-zero bonus increases for 2013 and downward pressure on salaries across the investment banking sector in Australia means hiring may remain pedestrian until more marked evidence of an improvement in activity is witnessed.

Hopeful bankers at the Australian arms of the large foreign investment banks, which all reported their fourth earnings (or losses in Deutsche Bank’s case,) last week are probably all comfort eating after several institutions revealed the impact of hefty legal costs and a decline in investment banking fees on their bottom lines.

The upshot is that after several years of rather mundane salary increases and bonuses, 2014 looks to be more of the same. The only exception, reports the Australian Financial Review, are junior bankers who can expect increases in total compensation.

This means that with the situation pretty much the same across all the banks, there is little incentive for bankers to move out of their current roles.

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Victoria Biggs, a partner at Sydney-based Platinum Pacific Partners, points out that for bankers to move, there needs to be opportunity.

“(But) I would still describe the recruitment climate as fairly tepid. Given that the banking sector has been beleaguered now for some years, I suspect most who were going to leave the industry have done so already and those who have stuck around are more likely to want to see what 2014 brings given activity has picked up.”

She says, however, that the activity uptick is still embryonic so banking recruitment hasn’t increased that much as yet.

“But it may do later this year and certainly, this could lead to IB movements. I don’t imagine that banking (salary) bases will increase anywhere: if anything, they have been coming down and I can’t imagine banks would want to push them up again.”

Nick Murphy, a regional director at Hays, says the US banks are likely to limit their recruitment to replacement hires, while Asian banks may do some moderate hiring.

“We don’t expect a spike in compensation because competition is high for roles at the moment, so candidates should not expect a substantial increase if they change jobs.”

Murphy says that Australian investment bank pay is on par with that being offered in the US and Europe, but notes that most foreigners that move down under to take up a role would not do it for the salary, but rather for lifestyle reasons.

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