Back office left behind on bonuses

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Bonuses for juniors in front-office roles look set to soar higher than ever this year. Shame the same can't be said for operations.

"It's still early days, but the figures we're seeing suggest bonuses for corporate finance analysts are higher than ever this year," says Logan Naidu, a consultant at recruitment company Cornell Partnership. "We've seen first-years receiving up to 140% [of salary]."

Given salaries are typically 35k to 40k in the first year, this puts the very top first-year analysts (i.e. people in their first year out of university) on nearly 100k.

Operations staff are impoverished by comparison: "In the past few years when profits have been high, bonuses in operations haven't shot up to nearly the same degree as the front office," says the director of one operations-focused search firm.

He says most banks hire graduates into operations on a 32k base salary, plus a bonus of - wait for it - 3k to 6k.

Even at senior levels, operations staff still don't pull in huge sums of money. A vice president in a US investment bank can expect 75k to 100k in base salary, plus a bonus of between 50% and 100%, he adds.

Mike Hartwell, managing director of operations specialist search firm Hartwell Buck, says the best-paid people in ops are either business analysts and project managers helping outsource projects to India, or people running hot product areas such as interest rate derivatives, credit derivatives and commodities. Even so, bonuses are unlikely to be more than 50% after three years.

Analyst salaries and bonuses, operations

First-year analyst: 32k base salary, plus 4k to 5k bonus

Second-year analyst: 35k to 37k base, plus 10k to 15k bonus

Third-year analyst: 40k base, plus 10k to 15k bonus