Now that a big guaranteed bonus is probably out of the question, bankers are settling for a new type of trinket as an expression of their prestige: a parking space.
"The parking space is a massive status symbol," the head of recruitment at one American bank in the City told us. "I've had a lot of conversations about them recently - parking is incredibly important to some people."
Parking spaces in London banks are bestowed with special cachet by their rarity value. Goldman Sachs' Jersey City office reportedly has 1,231 parking spaces. By comparison, Goldman's London Peterborough Court office has a mere 30 parking spaces, according to the building's plans.
Headhunters say parking spaces can be an important component of pay negotiations when bankers are changing jobs. "The more senior you are, the more likely it is that you will get a space," said a partner at one search boutique, speaking on condition of anonymity. Another headhunter said candidates have refused new positions unless parking spaces are granted.
Not all parking spaces are equal, however. The most prestigious spaces are those within banking offices themselves. Less prestigious, but still sought-after, are spaces in communal car parks which banks buy in bulk and dole out to the favoured few.
Jon Terry, a partner in the reward and compensation practice at PwC, said receipt of a parking space has additional advantages for City bankers. A parking space would be regarded as a benefit for regulatory purposes and would therefore be considered part of fixed rather than variable pay, Terry said. As a result, bankers with parking spaces should be entitled to higher bonuses under the European Union's coming bonus cap.
It's not just about money and prestige, however. Parking spaces and the associated activity of driving into work have an intrinsic value for some busy banking professionals. "I like to drive in to work in my own space, listening to my own music," said one senior DCM banker with an intense look in his eye. "It sets me up for the day."