Until it stumbled into the arms of Ken Lewis and his campaign to curb the excesses of Wall Street, it would appear that Merrill was actually planning to reward its people quite well this year.
According to one of our ever popular estimations of average compensation, mean pay at Merrill was due to be marginally higher in 2008. The bank’s Q3 results indicate that average comp per head was coming in at $183k for the first nine months, compared to $180k for the same period last year.
This isn’t too bad when you consider that Merrill went out of its way to maintain bonuses in 2007. Last year compensation and benefits at the bank totaled $15.8bn, despite losses of $8bn. This was only marginally down from 2006, when payouts reached a record $16.9bn.
Whether pay continues to hold up will depend on compensation expenditure in the fourth quarter now that Merrill is one with BofA. Lewis’s comments suggest the average Merrill banker could be disappointed yet.