SocGen's fixed income traders didn't do badly in 2017. As the chart below shows, they managed to increase revenues more than rivals at most other banks, including at the Americans that dominate the market. In the circumstances, they were expecting to be well paid. Headhunters say this isn't the case for everyone .
"SocGen announced their bonuses yesterday and it wasn't taken well in the London office," says the head of one fixed income search firm. "The pool was down around 5%, but the cuts seem to have been skewed toward juniors, some of whom are complaining they're down a lot on last year. The suspicion is that the money has stayed with the top ranks."
SocGen declined to comment on its bonuses, but another fixed income headhunter agreed there's fallout. "The bonuses at SocGen have been pretty catastrophic," he says. "We've spoken to a few people there who received nothing and we understand they've put several people at risk [of redundancy]."
SocGen doesn't have a reputation as a big payer. In 2015 (the last year for which figures are available), the average "risk taker" working in its investment bank earned €795k (£680k, $837k) compared to €833k at BNP Paribas and over a million dollars at leading U.S. banks. Nonetheless, headhunters say SocGen's fixed income traders were hopeful of recognition after their good year. In FX, at least, one headhunter said people at SocGen are generally happy: "Bonuses are up around 10%."
SocGen has committed to cutting a further €220m euros of costs from its investment bank. The French bank's recent investor presentation suggested that around half of these cuts are still to come. Although SocGen has said it intends to maintain its presence in London after Brexit, the suspicion is that the low fixed income bonuses are intended to encourage voluntary exits - saving the bank severance pay. "It's like they're trying to shake the tree," says one headhunter. "But they risk losing some of their best juniors."