Hard to believe that bankers are actually thinking positively about year-end bonuses, but they are - even though the smart money now feels that they are likely to be at least 20% down on last year.
We asked three financial markets professionals, one from front, middle and back office, what they expected this year-end. Their responses were somewhat predictable:
'I've worked hard this year. Sure, I understand that there are problems out there, and that people are suffering. But that's not really my concern. Tougher market conditions have meant that I won't bring in as much this year, and I accept that my bonus will be down on last year (the best year I ever had actually), but I still expect a decent payout. I get calls from headhunters all the time. Even in this market, I could walk into a new job. My employer knows this, and won't want to lose me. They will be relying on my revenue streams when the good times return. My firm will never fire me. I'm untouchable!'.
'More than ever before, firms need those professionals who look at control and risk. As regulatory pressures increase and reputational risk comes even more to the fore, we remain in big demand. I'm not greedy (otherwise I would have tried out for front office), but I expect to get paid out. The pressure has been extreme this year, and it won't ease off in 2013. We will see increased compliance, regulation and supervision. Firms just can't legally operate without people like me. They will need to keep us sweet'.
'I'll be lucky to have a job at year-end, let alone a bonus. Us foot-soldiers are expendable, and we know it. As trading volumes have reduced, so has the need for armies of support staff. Sure, I've probably worked harder this year than I've ever done before (my team lost staff to rivals and downsizing and we weren't allowed to replace them), but I don't expect to be well-rewarded this bonus time. People like us never get big pay-outs - even in a good year. What chance do we have in the worst year in living memory for the industry ?
1. 'God, how I hate cocky traders! I hope he loses his job'.
2. 'No-one's untouchable in this market. That guy's heading for a fall'.
3. 'If I was that trader's boss, I'd fire him. Wrong attitude - no-one's indispensible'.
4. 'We in back office take on a lot of responsibility, get none of the reward and are always the first to be shown the door, or get our bonuses cut'.
5. 'Guess that makes you.......a sucker!'.
6. 'I looked up 'DENIAL' in the dictionary - it said: 'Front and Middle Office investment banking staff'.
7. 'You could put about a thousand guys at that trader's desk, and they'd all produce the same numbers. Maybe it's time one of them was given a turn'.
8. 'It will take all of 5 minutes to find someone else who is just as well educated, younger and more humble - oh, and they'd be cheaper too!'.
9. 'I am a headhunter who specializes in front office hires. I currently have a desk full of previously 'untouchable' candidates'.
10. 'It's the same greed and ego-centric attitude that got us here in the first place'.