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GUEST COMMENT: Prepare to be knifed in the interest of preserving the bonus pot

Whilst most of us are thinking of holidays and the annual pilgrimage to Globe House to renew yet another expired child’s passport, the canny out there are already laying in year-end groundwork.

It only takes a brief glance at market conditions and a brief sounding of a few people in the know to make it very plain that the bonus stork won’t be calling at every house in seven to nine months time…

If fact if the trend in redundos starts to snowball from the first few announcements of the past couple of weeks, then avoiding the call of the grim reaper will be upper most in people’s mind rather than the reception of bundles of joy.

In theory, the competition shouldn’t be as cutthroat as it was. In this FSA-constrained world, mid-ranking staff are no longer taking away unduly from the pot (other than by diluting the shares). But I fear this isn’t going to be a great help given the great disparity of performance that I’m hearing across the desks in the various divisions of the banks.

The reality is this: the smarties who have made money this year are already laying down markers for their own performance and quietly lining up knives to thrust into the back of their lower performing brethren in a couple of months time.

“Ever was it thus” you might argue; but I believe that this year’s bonus round is going to be even more brutal than usual. I know of a couple of desks in the city that are very actively campaigning for a “resiloization” (sic) of their business from the loss making dross around them.

[As an aside; isn’t it amazing the degree to which the banks (or rather their leading shareholders) seem to accept the countless waves of integration and separation within their businesses? As soon as we get an upturn in the investment banking business cycle the most profitable areas integrate (for that read assimilate) the lesser (but not so badly performing) areas around them; only to dump them and throw up a high wall around their profits and bonuses as soon as the cycle turns down. No? Maybe I have just been involved in too many of them…and have seen at first hand at what cost they are effected, anyway I digress…]

So, I suspect that there will be even more preening and stabbing than usual in the glass goldfish bowls of the City in the coming weeks.

The performers will strut their stuff to get themselves and their teams paid. More importantly they will be making the “we are a special case” argument (or some variation on this theme) to ensure that they don’t end up subsidising everyone else.

This will be accompanied by a threat to leave and to take the profits elsewhere, which given the prospects for next year isn’t something any manager wants to hear from one of his top producers.

The outlook for 2012 (and for the rest of 2011 come to that) is ugly enough without your main profit drivers having a hissy fit and threatening to go to the competition…so Management will probably fold on this. Good news if you have had a good year…awful if you haven’t…

The writer is a former gold fish bowl denizen, who no longer has to listen to the whiners all day to get himself paid….

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