Mixed Reactions As Bonus Season Kicks Off

Morgan Stanley was the first major firm to tell staff the size of this year's bonus cheque. The Times reports that the firm issued the numbers yesterday. Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers will advise their staff of their numbers in the next week of so.

Although the stories in the press will focus in the main on the few who got paid out in the millions, most who work in rival firms will want to know how much the average employee got. As expected, there were winners and losers in 2003, just as there are every year. Some Morgan Stanley staff went home smiling, some didn't.

According to The New York Post, bonuses at the firm were up 20% on average this year. Those in fixed income are thought to have seen their annual bonus increase by up to 35% this time around. The equity guys had a mixed time of it in the last 12 months, and bonuses are thought to be anywhere from plus or minus 15% on 2002. Numbers in corporate finance are thought to be, on the whole, marginally better than last time out.

So, although it is early days, the indications are that bonuses are higher than 12 months ago, but still well below 2000 levels. Contrary to some reports, bonuses are not really 'back' - they are just around. Staff will feel a little more valued and have a bit more to spend. Whether the additional cash will be seen to be value for all the hard work put in this year is another matter.

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