A Q&A with the compensation expert who thinks banking pay could fall another 50% in 5 years

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Jon Terry

Jon Terry

What’s happening with investment banking compensation? Are lower pay and higher deferrals really inevitable? We asked Jon Terry, remuneration partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Q: Over the next five years, how much would you expect investment banking compensation to fall by - on average?

Two big factors are likely to influence IB compensation levels: profitability and the share of profits distributed to employees.

If banks continue to de-risk, profits will fall. If shareholders demand a higher share of profits, pay will fall exponentially.

We’ve seen broadly lower levels of compensation as a proportion of profits over the past two years and this is likely to continue. This could result in overall compensation levels falling quite substantially – maybe by as much as 20-50% over the next five years.

Q: Is there any good news?

Yes. Pay could rise.

Q: Why would that happen?

If banks ringfence or separate their IB divisions, shareholders may accept higher IB compensation levels as the price to pay for their exposure.

Come 2015, how would you expect the average £100k bonus at a large bank to be structured?

Over 50% will be in deferred stock or instruments linked to the bank’s underlying long term exposure. This will apply at even modest levels of bonus and a higher proportion will be deferred at higher levels.

What are the three biggest challenges facing banks in terms of compensation now?

Financial uncertainties are reducing profits. It’s difficult to identify the small number of truly alpha-generating employees. And there’s pressure from external stakeholders (media, regulator and government) on perceived appropriate levels of pay.