Time was, you worked an ungodly amount of hours, sacrificed your personal life, health and so on and so forth in a banking gig because your employer was going to make it rain ka-ching! on your face at the end of the day. In these harrowing, post-crisis times, though, things have changed. The slave labor is still there but the pay is not. Take 2010- according to a "paymaster" interviewed by the Journal's Dennis Berman, median banker pay was at about $1.6 million and with this newly popular deferred bonus business, after taxes one is looking at about $380,000 in cash, which the paymaster notes is "not a lot of money," and which some think might not be worth your time.
[$380,000 is] a princely sum by most standards, but quite a comedown for anyone conditioned to take home nearly double that. The smaller annual cash payout might mean fewer days of vacation at the Atlantis or one less domestic helper, but the deeper issue is the amount of pay that is deferred and dependent upon the long-term success of the bank. This calls into question the grand bargain of investment banking.
In the precrisis days, bankers would work ungodly hours, fly halfway around the world at a moment's notice and kiss up to clients and superiors, all for the promise that they would retire rich in their 40s or early 50s. It was like working a job that had a very lucrative pension. Now, with so much of his or her compensation at risk, the prospect of the banker toiling deep into his 50s or even his 60s is very real.
The other dream for bankers was to hit it big with one great year. But that too is getting harder. Top bank officials across the Street report the number of $5 million earners has fallen significantly since the crisis. The once-vaunted "$10 million man" is the rarest of breeds. Today, a $5 million salary puts a banker at the 90th percentile for pay, according to the paymaster's figures.