Guaranteed bonuses are back, but it's complicated

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Much has been made of the fact that guaranteed bonuses are here again. This is very true, but although they're back, they're not as simple as they were.

The big question of the day is how much RBS is paying Antonio Polverino, BofA Merrill's top European fixed income salesman.

RBS apparently made the hire directly (without the aid of headhunters) and is keeping numbers close to its chest. However, Polverino is rumoured to have collected as much as $9m spread over two years when he joined Merrill from JPMorgan in 2005. Speculation therefore suggests he may receiving in the region of $5-7m from RBS.

Rajeev Misra is also thought to have gone to UBS on a guarantee. However, this is disputed as Misra left Deutsche last summer and set up his own trading firm. Nevertheless, it's thought he was retained on a lucrative consultancy contract at Deutsche and would probably have been bought out of this.

But while guarantees are out there, headhunters they're no longer simply about working for two years and collecting a payout.

"There's an assumption that everything is great and back to normal, but it's not," says one headhunter. "I just worked on a contract with a guarantee that had 96 sub-clauses."

Today's guarantees are for minimum amounts (eg. only $1m), with the possibility for earning more if performance stipulations are reached. "You need to meet performance triggers and shares will vest over anything from five to nine years," says the headhunter.

"RBS are being clever with their guarantees, and offering a minimum with a performance element," says another headhunter. "The common theme here is that banks are desperate not to write them."

Barclays Capital is also said to have offered large guarantees to bring on the likes of Jim Renwick from UBS.

However, The Times reported at the weekend that Barclays guarantees are only worth "up to a year's salary."

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