Merrill's measly bonuses

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Surprise, surprise, Merrill Lynch hasn't paid particularly generous bonuses (at all).

Merrill unveiled the dimensions of its payouts late last week and, according to headhunters, the results weren't pretty.

"Performing people have been paid flat to marginally down, but the majority - and that's a large majority - are down 60-70% on last year, particularly in fixed income sales and research," says a partner at one headhunting firm. "Origination and investment banking are better, with cuts of 40-50%."

Plenty of people in Merrill's fixed income business are also said to have received zero bonuses, suggesting the bank plans to cull a few more London bankers in the coming months.

However, Merrill isn't just busy underpaying and rooting out poor performers: under Thain, the bank is also embarking on a programme of upgrading - and that means hiring.

So far, this has been limited to a few big cheeses in the US, but recruiters say London hiring is just around the corner.

"It's just the CEO bringing in his own boys at this point," say Jason Kennedy of search firm Kennedy Associates. "But there will be selective hiring to come."

Consultants working for the bank say hiring is on the cards in wealth management, commodities and investment banking, and that the bank will be looking to upgrade its credit risk function. "They want to replace the people who got them into this mess," says one.

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