It’s all too easy to deprecate bonuses and all who receive them.
At their outer reaches, bonuses are difficult to justify. One individual in receipt of tens of millions (or even hundreds of millions in the case of hedge fund traders), is excessive. But most bonuses are not nearly so large: five figures frequently; six figures maybe; seven figures rarely.
While any bonus beyond the 1k received by cashiers at Lloyds is likely to evoke ire in the current environment, it should also be remembered that the receipt of an apoplexy-inducing six figure sum is often the culmination of a decade of dedication and sacrifice at the altar of 12 hour days.
Investment banking careers aren’t open to everyone. In the past decade banks have adopted rigid and rigourous recruitment procedues. Positions paying big bonuses are now usually accessible only to people who have worked hard consistently throughout school and university.
And when they attain a position in an investment bank, these people will typically be expected to work harder still.
Not everyone is keen on this, and not everyone, therefore, is in a position to receive a bonus.
There are anomalies: in 2006 some first year analysts straight out of university earned in excess of 100k; successful traders can (could) make big money relatively quickly. Many bonuses, however, take years of careful cultivation. And there’s always the risk of a major downturn and sudden redundancy before they bear fruit.