Compensation

You can’t argue with this:

Last year, the cash portion of bonuses was paid entirely in cash.

Well glad that’s cleared up then! Anyway the actual story is not complete nonsense:

Bank of America told senior bankers this week that the cash portion of investment-bank bonuses, the part that is payable immediately, will be paid 25% in cash and the rest in stock that vests immediately, said a person briefed on the matter. The shift applies to bonuses above $100,000. …

The same bankers also will receive a portion of year-end bonuses in the form of deferred stock, as they did last year. The deferred-stock amounts will vary according to overall pay. A bank spokeswoman declined to comment.

Maybe they’re using “cash” in the trading sense – meaning your “spot” bonus, as opposed to your “derivative” bonus, the one forward-settling in three years?
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  • 23 Jan 2012 at 1:58 PM

Bonus Watch ’11: Credit Suisse

A couple weeks back, a report circulated that Wall Street banks were considering freezing compensation for junior employees. The firms were hesitating, however, supposedly on account of the backlash they feared would occur from failing to keep “potential future stars…engaged and happy.” Yes, they were terrified at the consequences of how their junior mistmakers would react to the news and didn’t want to pull the trigger unless everyone promised to do the same, preventing a dire situation wherein a handful of first and second  year analysts quit to join firms where their unique talents would be appreciated. Credit Suisse CEO Brady Dougan, for one, has decided not to be afraid anymore. Read more »

  • 18 Jan 2012 at 12:26 PM
  • Banks

Goldman Sachs Now Paying Employees For A Full Year Of Work

I know I’ve said that the Jamie & Doug in the Morning Show is the best call-in program in finance, given Jamie Dimon’s reliably amusing anti-regulation rant, but the true connoisseur should also really get a kick out of David Viniar’s calmer, wonkier, more NPR-appropriate chat. I certainly do. We’ll maybe have more to say about it later.

My enjoyment is, however, complicated by the fact that at this time of year I feel certain feelings. Specifically, feelings about Goldman Sachs comp, which will be terrible, horrible, down 115%, whatever, and yet … still … somehow … I want it. Have we talked about this before? Sometimes I miss investment banking. A thing that some people not in the industry don’t know about investment banking is that it is an awesome job, in the specific sense that many people would do it for free, or even pay money to do it, and in the even more specific sense that sometimes they do. (For, um, fairly loose definitions of “pay money.”) This happened twice during my time at Goldman. Let’s all luxuriate in a chart:
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Hey, so, if you work at a bank, you may have heard about this, not sure, but your comp will be down. Just a bit. Unless you’re a junior mistmaker Chez Dimon. But otherwise, yeah. Down.

Another thing you may be less aware of is that some people are actually not so unhappy about that. A few of them even think that it’s possible that your pay should be down some more. And they think someone should really look into that:

Giant firms are expected to cut executive pay by some 30% from 2010 levels, consultants say. And since the financial crisis of 2008, firms have reduced cash bonuses, increased their use of company stock and added clauses that allow them to recoup—or “claw back”—pay in certain circumstances.

Even so, some investors want more changes. In December, the Nathan Cummings Foundation—a private charitable organization and institutional shareholder—filed proposals asking that directors at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. address potential reputational damage that big pay packages could bring to the banks, said Laura Campos, director of shareholder activities at the foundation. The proposals also request that they study how such awards could reduce banks’ ability to spend money on other areas, and report those findings to shareholders.

Shareholder resolution activists (not to be confused with, like, real activists) are mostly pretty silly creatures and this is a pretty good example of why. The Journal tries valiantly to make the efforts of Nathan Cummings and his eponymous foundation relevant to the hot-button issue of how much bankers get paid, but it’s pretty clear that the NCF is focused on a thing called “executive pay.” Executive pay is sort of an irrelevancy for investment banks, mostly, since it makes up a relatively small fraction of comp, and since lots of people at banks get paid executive amounts of money without being a named executive officer. And as long as the Nathan Cummingseses of the world are focusing on how much the Lloyds/Jamies/James-not-Jamies of the world are getting, they will probably stay away from your now-30%-paltrier comp.

Other fearless crusaders for shareholders have noticed this, however, and are more interested in going directly after your money, though they have yet to resort to the rather infra dig expedient of shareholder resolutions. Instead they do things like complain to Andrew Ross Sorkin, who earlier this week said: Read more »

As you may have heard, bonus season this year is going to be a bit tricky, on account of the fact that Wall Street banks didn’t make much in the way of cash in 2011. While paying some seniors staff zero dollars is being considered, it still may not be enough to pick up the slack. There is one idea that’s been floated among firms but shot down, so far, for fear of being too risky, so risky that it’s probably not even safe to mention it here but I’m gonna– freezing pay for junior staff. (Oh god, shhh, don’t say it aloud, we don’t want to start a run on the banks!) Everyone wants to do it but no one’s got the cojones, fearing the backlash that would come from angering “future stars” whose names will be learned in 5-7 years when they graduate from second class citizen status. No, the consequences would be dire. Unless…unless everyone put up a united front against these incredibly powerful and intimidating people? Read more »

A story that is told about banks is this: Bankers are paid to maximize short-term results and screw the risks. All they care about is this-period earnings. They dance until the music stops. (Then they sue.) In this story, banker pay drives risk and volatility and other terrible things.

A counter-narrative that sometimes floats around is this: there’s no particular evidence that bankers are paid in line with short-term risks. The jury is sort of out on this one because the data isn’t really there one way or the other; see this post from the Epicurean Dealmaker for why you shouldn’t take seriously claims that bank executive comp (who cares about executives?) doesn’t closely track stock prices (who cares about stock prices?). He tentatively endorses a form of the traditional view:

My industry’s pay practices and culture were built over decades when the vast majority of business investment banks conducted was agency business. Business like M&A, where you earn a fee for helping a client buy or sell a company, or security underwriting, where you earn a fee for placing client securities with outside investors, or securities market making, where you earn a spread for standing between buy- and sell-side investors as a middleman and temporary warehouser. None of these businesses entailed any material amount of persistent or hidden financial risk to investment banks …

The problem arose when investment banks (and their bastard cousins and often ultimate owners, commercial or universal banks) began conducting business as principals, either explicitly and in full knowledge, or—most dangerously—in total ignorance. Mouthwateringly profitable leveraged lending, structured products, complex derivatives, and proprietary investing of all kinds meant that investment banks no longer conducted business as short-term conduits of temporary risk, but began accumulating long-term financial risks on or off their balance sheet, often without their own knowledge. But when this happens, the old view that Joe in Structured Products should get a massive bonus in February because he brought in $100 million of fee revenue to the firm this year cannot cope with the fact that Joe’s fabulous trades expose the firm to $1 billion in potential losses over the next five years.

Lest you reply “but you get paid in stock so ooh long-term incentives ooh,” ED has an answer to that that is I think irrefutable. And he ends up calling for an empirical study of line-trader-and-banker pay that determines how much risk-taking is and is not incentivized by comp.

Maybe we’ll do that when we get an intern. Until then, a data point you might look at is this paper that Oliver Faltin-Traeger of Blackrock and Christopher Mayer of Columbia Business School presented this weekend at a fancy soirée in Chicago. It is not at all about banker comp. It is about the fact that CDOs were shit, pure shit, basically. I know, you knew that already, but really: Read more »

  • 14 Dec 2011 at 6:37 PM

UBS Raises Base By For (Some) Employees

Over the past year or so, a lot of people have chosen to voluntarily leave UBS, which may have something to do with the fact that people would like to get paid. While a handful of marquee names (within the industry) have been lured with big checks, many senior bankers have heard nary a peep re: bonuses in several years (the staff’s pay overall being nothing to write home about, either), and with morale taking a hit in the wake of suggested layoffs and someone losing the place $2.1 billion, employment with places where you’re robbed at knifepoint look good. The last time staffers inquired about compensation, investment-banking chief Carsten Kengeter told them to put a sock in it. So, some may be a bit gun-shy about bringing it up again. Happily, today brings exciting news. Some people are getting a raise! Read more »