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The crafty yet brutal way bankers share bonus numbers


Bonus day can be very awkward. Some hit the jackpot, many are disappointed and others even get the dreaded zero-bonus, which means their time is likely numbered. But, as we’ve reported previously, it’s bad form to talk about your bonus. In fact, seniors recommend that you shouldn’t even show any emotion.

However, some junior bankers have discovered a way of determining where you stand without divulging anything personally. The genius is in its simplicity.

They go to a local watering hole for happy hour after receiving their bonus (rarely does anyone put in a long day. If you did well, you’re up for celebrating. If things went poorly, you’re likely drowning your sorrows and reworking your resume).

After a couple of beers, someone takes the reins and hands out small pieces of paper to everyone in the same group. This particular one was made up of M&A associates in the same vertical – around 20 of them.

Everyone writes their bonus down on the slip of paper and drops it into a hat that’s being passed around. No names, just numbers. Someone then reads them aloud, giving everyone an idea as to where they stand. The range of bonuses for these particular bankers was around $35,000, according to one attendee.

There was no real emotion, though you can imagine the top-paid banker likely forced back a smile while the worst performer began rethinking their choices. They called it a “hat drop,” though we’re told that’s not an industry cliché.

Was it worth it, getting to know where you’re ranked like some form of sport? Maybe not. The general consensus was: “Is doing this job worth it anymore?” said one employee who asked to keep the name of the bank anonymous. He no longer works in banking.

Perhaps ignorance is bliss.

Comments (2)

  1. 35k average bonus? For real? I thought bankers make 300K bonuses

    • @Rambo $35k was the range (top to bottom), not the size of the bonus.

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