Are Oz bankers losing out at bonus time?

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2007 was a good year for Australian bankers, but that doesn't mean they're all seeing the fruits of their labours when it comes to bonuses.

Australian investment bankers employed by US banks heavily exposed to the sub-prime credit crisis, such as Citigroup, Merrill Lynch and JPMorgan, are expecting bonus cuts of up to 10% this year.

Carmichael Fisher consultant Oliver Darkes says bonuses in areas most exposed to the credit crunch in the US, such as debt, fixed income and credit, are being impacted most severely.

"Across the board, in businesses that have a wide exposure to the global credit crunch, their bonuses aren't going to be as good as last year. It's frustrating for the Australian divisions of these global investment banks because generally they performed quite well."

Darkes says he is also finding that quite a few banks are paying a substantial part of their bonuses in stock, rather than cash, particularly those that have had billions of dollars wiped off their stock value.

Meredith Jordan of Jon Michel Executive Search says bonuses are down by 5-10% at a number of the global investment banks.

"Some of the payouts are down and there will be movement on the street this year, definitely. There's a lot of uncertainty and that will be around for at least 18 months."

Luke Heath, chief executive of Chandler Heath, says he is also aware of strong lobbying by Australian investment banks.

"We're hearing about senior managers, such as country heads in Australia, spending significant time offshore championing their local enterprises so that they get paid a fair share of the global revenue. Most Australian institutions have done pretty well across most product lines."

Bonus cuts of 5-10% may sound a lot to Australian bankers who brought in record revenues last year, but it's worth bearing in mind that colleagues in Europe and the US are being punished more severely - with reductions of 40%-plus the order of the day at some houses.