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HSBC bonuses may be quite presentable

If you want to earn a lot of money, HSBC hasn’t traditionally been the place to do it. This, after all, is the bank that popularized the widespread payment of zero bonuses back in 2003, when only 10% of its equity research staff (allegedly) were paid in anything resembling cash.

This year, however, things could be different. According to various sources, HSBC’s bonus pool is down by a mere third, while that of UK rival Barclays is down nearly 50% and RBS’s is virtually non-existent.

This relative generosity may be because HSBC’s global banking and markets division has actually been doing quite well. In the first half of 2008 it even achieved a profit of $2.7bn, thanks to its emerging markets, FX and rates businesses.

HSBC has also been restrained when it comes to headcount eradication. 1,100 people were cut from global banking and markets in September 2008, but subsequent reductions have focused on clerical and computer services staff.

Nevertheless, headhunters say HSBC’s investment bankers still aren’t in a particularly enviable position. “”They’ve been winning business by throwing their balance sheet at it, rather than relying on individual contacts and they didn’t pay very good bonuses in the first place,” says one M&A search consultant.

In this context, she says 30% down may still look fairly “crappy” compared to other banks.

Comments (26)

  1. What are you talking about? HSBC bonus numbers were announced 2 weeks ago and were AWFUL. “30% down” is irrelevant when they were so pitiful during bull markets – we had Associates in sales/trading who got 10-20k!!!!

    Disgruntled at HSBC Reply
  2. i agree – HSBC bonuses were communicated to staff 2 weeks ago….and were cr*p – they may only be down a third – but they have always paid less than the rest of the market – so in reality you wont get anymore over at Smug Bank…

  3. HSBC…should be rewarding people for open up current accounts. What are they doing in Global Markets?

  4. true our bonus and coffee sucks but hey at least i have a job.. god knows for holw ong tho..

  5. “HSBC’s bonus pool is down by a mere third, while that of UK rival Barclays is down nearly 50%”

    Sorry but this is SUCH poor journalism! HSBC paid appallingly during the best of times, whilst BarCap was an outstanding payer then – meaning that a Barclays bonus down 50% is still probably a MULTIPLE of an HSBC one down a third.

    My friend is an Associate in DCM and got 18k. Imagine being 25 years old and having 18k as a bonus..pathetic really.

  6. Sujit: if you read the article to the end you will find that I agree with you.

    Sarah, Editor, eFinancialCareers Reply
  7. 18k > 0 ?

  8. Sarah,
    overall Global Markets Bonuses were around 60% down. Sales took a greater hit of closer to 65/70%. Associate and Managers on an average struggled to get more than 30/40k. Majority of ADs got less than 75k. Given that the average bonuses are already a fraction of what others pay, the disparity increased this year. Thus the morale or the severe lack of it is clear to see on levels 3 and 4. Not a bank that treats its people well

    higherupatHSBC Reply
  9. Why then is the title “HSBC bonuses may be quite presentable” when anyone with any basic knowledge knows HSBC is the worst bonus payer even in the best of times taking into account their mkt position.

  10. HSBC sucks! its down 50% anyway!

  11. The original news article about the bonus pool being cut 30% is inaccurate. It was actually cut another 30% early this year from numbers that were already down 50% from last year. Overall it is down in the region of 65%.

  12. and while I am on the topic, it might be worth pointing out that the Global Markets model is quite clear at HSBC. Recruit senior personnel from other banks, hire hungry juniors and keep replacing them with fresh hungry juniors once they reach middle management and start demanding more money. It keeps the operations cheap and makes sure that the deadwood remains comfortable. Its an awesome place for a semi competent director/managing director from other banks to “retire” into, terrible for someone who is young, ambitious and hungry

    higherupatHSBC Reply
  13. Well, better 50% down than being promised a bonus and then having taken it away… Ah yes, and being made redundant in about a month’s time – just ask folks at Dresdner Kleinwort.

    And before the usual rant starts – contrary to popular belief that DK were all buffoons, there are actually some very decent people, albeit a few and far in between.

  14. atleast something is better than nothing !

  15. More like 60% down on 2007, and pretty much no pay rises for anyone.

    Given that HSBC wanted to motivate us using “variable” pay i.e. bonuses, and bonuses are being cut back I’m sure they will increase my salary! Especially given they have taken my pension away as well………

  16. i am a 2nd year ecm analyst at one of the investment banks that the bonuses were down >75%. i still got 8k dough this year after tax for 2 times less work than 2007.

    plus all of the ASSociates that I hated are gone so till I am fired, I am the man! now that is priceless..

    i am 23 and got enough money in my account to actually worry about whether it is covered if the bank goes belly up. even if we go bust tomoro it was still worth it. if now it is either unemployment or the likes of hsbc then sign me up for ECB. would never swap for a retail bank’s name on my cv. talent has left the building..

  17. Sarah, not sure how much input you have in terms of moderating comments on your articles, but you should really not bother approving comments from the like of Surjit slating what you have written. Similar to any line of journalism there is always scope for material to be slightly off the mark. Constructive criticism should be welcomed but anyone going in gung ho & vociferously stating its ‘crappy’ or ‘pathetic’ can, by all means, go elsewhere. I, for one, think the journalism in the Sun and the Daily Mail is pretty rubbish therefore I choose not to read it.

    And FYI, 18k bonus at 25 really isnt crappy when you look at it respectively. Half the country earns that on average.

  18. if you want to speak in realist terms then why dont you calculate his total cash receipts to time wasted at work ratio? i am pretty sure it is a parabolic fraction of the national average

  19. Your article is well writen, but I would like to clarify that it is not possible for your commentators to state what kind of bonus they or their friends have received from HSBC this year.
    HSBC has a variable and performance related bonus structure. While the performance ratings have been announced to the employees, the bonuses will only be announced on March 2nd after the annual results have been published.

  20. Ben,
    you have lost it, it was thursday last to last week. ppl already have the money in their accounts…payroll happens on 20th if you must know

    higherupatHSBC Reply
  21. The reason HSBC bonuses are not great is that it obviously exists to serve shareholders.

    Not a bunch or greedy sycophants like those posting.

    Imagine that!

  22. Bonuses have been paid mine was around 25% down on last year so not too bad.

  23. All these people whining about their stingy 18K bonuses!! Well, please remember that a) that kind of greed masquerading as ambition has brought this country to its knees in the last 50 years, b) it is shareholders and depositors money, not yours to be plundered and complained about, c) that OAPs are expected to live on 5K p.a. state pension and many have never been paid 18k pa in their lives. No wonder there’s a banking crisis, if that sort of culture is built into bank staff minds. Try doing without ANY BONUSES AT ALL for a while like the rest of us. Give the system time to settle down and add some commonsense to your tiny greedy minds.

    James de la Mare Reply
  24. It is very sad to see how aggressive some of the comments left here are, when this is supposed to be a forum to leave constructive feedback.

    It is correct that some out of the 300.000 HSBC employees in 85 countries have received their bonuses already, as there are quite a few different contracts out there as one can imagine. Some staff are also on quarterly bonuses.

    Here in the UK however about 85% are on contracts which bonus payments’ are linked to their performance and that of the company. As the annual results will be announced next Monday they will find their bonus payments, if any, in their March pay.

    Cheer up everybody, relax and be a bit polite please. There is enough frustration out there!

  25. Ben
    Are you an HSBC HR cronie? cause you sound like one. In totality, HSBC pays s*** compared to all banks and is a brilliant place for semi competent seniors to retire into. Thats it from my side.

    higherupatHSBC Reply
  26. HSBC always say “we believe in total remuneration”. In good time, they are not the top payer. In bad time, they are the top bad payer. As how the market views it, HSBC is a sleepy giant that do not pay what you have put in.

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