Is private equity pay really rising?

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A salary survey from US private equity headhunter Glocap Search LLC sounds a favourable note for anyone working in private equity or contemplating leaving investment banking for a new life on the buyside.

While investment banking bonuses are unquestionably falling, Glocap's 'indepth analysis of 2008/09 compensation at US-based private equity funds,' suggests PE pay is actually increasing.

Bonuses at the largest venture funds (those with $2bn or more under management) are apparently up 6% on last year.

Cash comp (ie. salaries plus bonuses) for senior associates (AKA graduating MBAs) is said to be up 4% to $435k (265k). Bonuses for vice presidents are up 8%. And cash comp for principals is up 4% to $885k.

Glocap says the impetus for the wage inflation is the almost extinct phenomenon of 'competition for top talent', but notes that after years of ever-accelerating PE pay increases, single digit rises feel "like the industry has taken its foot off the gas."

Unfortunately, UK private equity recruiters cast aspersions on whether Glocap's figures have any relevance this side of the Atlantic. "There hasn't been any noticeable increase here," says Katherine Howe at recruiters KHG Partners.

"Pay in private equity is so wide-ranging that it's impossible to be formulaic about it," says Abid Hussein, head of the financial services team at recruiters EM Group. "At present it's more lucrative to be a junior analyst or associate in a private equity fund than an investment bank. But are private equity bonuses going to be up this year compared to 2006 or 2007? I doubt it."