Considering that the global economy came to an abrupt halt and has only fleetingly and, well, haltingly sputtered back to life as humanity tries and repeatedly fails to come to grips with the pandemic that’s killed nearly 2 million of us, 2020 was a remarkably good year for those underpinning the aforementioned, Wall Street banks. Indeed, amidst the flood of activity and desperate desire for information and insight (even from Bank of America), a lot of banks did very well indeed from their bankers’ lake houses, ski lodges, Hamptons getaways, or hastily-purchased or rented homes in the suburbs or Hudson Valley. The bankers themselves? Yea, they’re going to do somewhat less well out of it.
At Bank of America Corp. the bonus pool is likely to be flat, according to people familiar with the bank’s plans. Bonuses for some JPMorgan Chase & Co. traders are expected to rise, according to a person familiar with the situation, but not as much as the 39% increase in trading revenues at the New York-based bank in the first nine months of 2020. Morgan Stanley has said it would pay $1,000 bonuses to most employees making less than $150,000, but hasn’t given any guidance on payouts for higher-earning staff…. Even the best performers may find their bonuses curtailed because of this public-perception problem.
“Executives are rightly super-concerned about the optics,” said Nick Miller, a partner at London-based recruitment firm Odgers Berndtson whose clients include global banks. “They’re very wary of the fine line between keeping staff motivated and respecting the broader picture of what it looks like to be paying bonuses.”
“Investment bankers on average are going to get paid more,” said Alan Johnson, head of the consulting firm. “It’s uncomfortable in the middle of a pandemic. Some of these people are not beloved to begin with and then we’re going to have stories about people going out and buying fancy cars, and fancy apartments, and that’s going to make a lot of people angry.”