When and where you're most likely to be happy with your pay in banking

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Are you happy with the amount you earn for your finance job? If the answer is yes, you're an aberration. Our recent survey of nearly 3,100 global finance professionals suggested the industry is almost equally split between those who are happy with their compensation, those who are neutral, and those who are annoyed. - The annoyed comprise 34% of the total, compared to 32% who are neutral and 30% who are happy. If you're in the 30%, you're special.

As the charts below show, however, some people in finance have a greater chance of pay satisfaction than others.

Our respondents suggested you're more likely to be happy if you're the right age, if you're working in the right sort of job, and if you're at the right sort of firm. You might not want to be a 50-something compliance professional at Citi, for example...

Happiness with your pay peaks in your early 20s

Responses to the survey reflected the cliché ‘that more is not always better. Although pay in banking rises with age (25% of our respondents aged over 40 said they earned more than $500k, compared to just 5% under 30), so does dissatisfaction with its quantum.

As the chart below shows, when you work in finance your happiness with your pay will probably peak when you're aged 20-25 - when you're on a good income, but have minimal responsibilities. After 35, your pay satisfaction declines significantly compared to the early years - and if you stay in banking until you're aged 45-50, your disgruntlement is likely to increase further still.  This is partly because not everyone over 40 in finance is on big money (around 20% of our respondents this age were on less than $200k), but it's also likely to be because the money you do have needs to go further than before.

Happiness with pay is highest at...Deutsche Bank

Surprisingly perhaps, our survey disproved the notion that people working for American banks are happiest with their pay. - They're not. As the chart below shows, our happiest respondents were at Deutsche Bank and Barclays. Our least happy were at Citi (followed by SocGen and Credit Suisse).

Deutsche bankers' contentment follows the German bank's decision to pay good bonuses for 2017 after withholding performance pay for 2016. It was an act of generosity that is thought to have contributed to the exit of former CEO John Cryan. Deutsche Bankers may well end up less happy with their bonuses for 2018, although Cryan's replacement Christian Sewing has promised that good bonuses will still be paid this year.

Pay happiness is highest among quants (hover over the chart to see the sectors)

Surprisingly, our survey revealed a very high level of compensation satisfaction in the quant community. Less surprisingly, it also revealed a high level of dissatisfaction among people working in compliance and risk.

Quants' happiness with their pay isn't necessarily a reflection of its level. - Although quant pay has risen in recent years, 45% of our quant sample said they were earning between $100k and $200k. Their contentment may be attributed to comparatively low expectations. - In sales and trading, where only 30% of our sample were earning between $100k and $200k and most people earned a lot more, pay dissatisfaction was significantly higher.

People in finance are unhappiest with their pay in Hong Kong  (hover over the chart to see the location)

Our survey revealed a high degree of disgruntlement in Hong Kong, where only 13% of respondents were happy with their pay and 47% were not. This compared to Singapore, where 33% of respondents were happy with what they were earning and just 19% were not.

Lastly, the survey also revealed that moving to the buy-side is no panacea for pay problems: the division of happy, neutral and unhappy respondents was similar in both areas of finance, at 32%, 32% and 36% respectively.

Have a confidential story, tip, or comment you’d like to share? Contact: sbutcher@efinancialcareers.com

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