The mighty Wall Street investment bankers, brokers, traders, deal makers and money managers are not immune to market forces. According to Bloomberg, JPMorgan, Bank of America, Citigroup and other financial institutions are considering cutting bonuses by up to 30%.
Compensation management consulting firm Johnson Associates reports that incentive pay may fall by more than 45%. There is a fear that some low performers will get “donuts,” the harsh term for not receiving any bonus payout.
The largest five United States investment banks saw their revenue plunge by nearly 50%, representing around $19 billion during the last three quarters of 2022. The decline in mergers and acquisitions, deal-making activities and initial public offerings caused management to reconsider paying big bonuses.
This hurts the wallets of white-collar Wall Street professionals who earn a large portion of total compensation in their yearly bonus. For high performers, in a good year, they can take home six to seven-figure bonus payments.
It’s A Big Change From A Couple Of Years Ago
The goal for university students was to secure a job with an investment bank, a private equity firm or a hedge fund. The profession, dealing with M&A, taking companies public with IPOs and trading stocks and bonds, was considered an attractive and exciting career. It offered a way to build vast wealth and achieve high social status.
As Silicon Valley and tech companies boomed, they stole some thunder away from Wall Street. Intelligent young people from top universities liked the comparably laidback attitude of cool startups and tech companies. They found wearing jeans and hoodies more attractive than buttoned-up suits and ties.
Hot startups and jobs with big-name companies, like Twitter, Apple, Amazon, Google and Amazon, offered intellectually challenging opportunities. The lure of stock and options that could make them rich quickly was alluring.
Young Bankers Protested Against Working Conditions
A group of young Goldman Sachs bankers alleged they were forced to work 100-hour workweeks. The junior bankers accused Goldman of making their lives miserable and not allowing them any semblance of work-life balance.
Bankers at other firms complained too. This resulted in a charm offensive in which management of the investment banks offered their junior bankers Peloton bikes, retention bonuses, salary increases and the promise to hire additional personnel to deal with the workload.
They needed to cater to their workers as Wall Street boomed with IPOs, SPACS, investment banking activities, M&A and sales and trading from mid-2020 to 2021. Due to the incredible increase in business, Wall Street laid out some of the most significant bonus increases, according to Johnson Associates.
Top-tier investment banks, including Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America, paid out around $142 billion to their workers in 2021. This amount didn’t include the many other financial services firms.
According to CNBC, New York City-based investment bank Goldman Sachs previously announced layoffs in September. Other major securities firms, including Citigroup, and Barclays, have laid off bankers who were purported to be underperforming. JPMorgan is reportedly engaging in downsizing at the end of the year, allowing attrition without replacement and lower bonus payouts. James Gorman, CEO of Morgan Stanley, said the bank plans to enact light cuts, according to Reuters.
The confluence of the Federal Reserve Bank raising interest rates, runaway inflation and general uncertainty over macro and geopolitical events contributed to a slowdown in IPOs and other deal-making activities. Over the summer, the New York Post predicted, “Layoffs will ravage the industry’s workforce by at least 10%—and that the bloodbath could be in full swing by year’s end.”
The fate of well-heeled bankers may follow the same trajectory as the tech sector. Startups and big tech hired aggressively due to pent-up demand and cheap financing available created by artificially depressed interest rates.
As the market turned against them, over 140,000 tech workers lost their jobs, hiring freezes were put in place and job offers were withdrawn. Bankers may suffer a similar fate unless the economy picks up. It looks like management recognizes that there are too many highly compensated people for too few investment activities.