If you're a banker earning $250k (£147k), you might expect life to be sweet - or at least sweeter than if you're only on $100k (£60k). Unfortunately, it's not that simple. By virtue of the crazy cost of living in the world's mega-cities, lower earning back office finance professionals can end up with a higher disposable income.
Both London and NYC are costly places to live. House prices in London have risen nearly 20% this year and the average house anywhere in the city costs £485k. Renting in London is no cheaper: the cost of renting an apartment in the City's financial district has risen 27% to an average of £3.3k over the past 12 months. The increase has been more moderate in bankers' favourite district of Kensington and Chelsea, but rents there are already steep at an average of £5.3k a month. Property is less of a dinner table topic in New York City, but as in London prices are being driven up by foreign buyers swooping on investment properties, with areas like Queens experiencing big price leaps over the past year.
The consequence is that if you work in finance, have a family, and earn a 'mere' $250k life can be tough, especially in the City of London. Mid-level bankers in the City are said to be struggling to raise families (and pay school fees) when they're earning anything less than £500k.
The pleasant life of the $100k bankers in Salt Lake City and Chester
As banks cut costs and squeeze the compensation of staff working in the key financial centers like London and New York City, they're saving money by near-shoring support roles to places like Salt Lake City (Goldman Sachs), Birmingham in the British Midlands (Deutsche Bank), and Chester in North West England (Bank of America). Finance jobs here can be as plentiful as they are becoming scarce in the big cities. Goldman Sachs regularly cites Salt Lake City as a growth office and has plans to hire another 200 people there this year. Bank of America is currently advertising 50 jobs in its Chester office, while Deutsche Bank is hiring 150 'low touch equities traders' in Birmingham.
Jobs in these near-shoring centres typically pay a lot less than in London or on Wall Street. Reuters puts salaries in Salt Lake City 30% below those in New York City. A recruiter who works for Bank of America in Chester (and who asked to remain anonymous) said pay there is typically 20% lower. This may be understating the differential however. He said BofA operates strict salary bands at its Chester office. Junior, or 'officer level' hires start on £35k, assistant vice presidents get £45k, and vice presidents get £60k. This is supplemented by a bonus, but he said that bonus is never more than 15%.
However, who cares that you're paid less when housing is so much cheaper. BofA juniors based in Chester live in the districts of Hoole or Handbridge according to the recruiter we spoke to. The average asking price in either area is £207k and £184k respectively according to property website Zoopla - in other words, less than half that of London. Similarly, bankers working at Goldman's Salt Lake City office can live in the 'eclectic and electric' boho Avenues neighborhood, where you can get a two-bedroom house for $289k. That beats Brooklyn, where a 2 bedroom apartment is now $700k+.
When a million isn’t enough: why top bankers are struggling to get by
Junior banking jobs in UK locations you probably haven’t thought of
An insight into what it’s like to work at Goldman Sachs’ expanding Salt Lake City office