Banks Slash Trader Bonuses As Wall Street Braces For Recession

Wednesday, August 7, 2019
By Paul Martin

by Tyler Durden
Wed, 08/07/2019

Even the Wall Street traders who survived this year’s cull of front-office personnel won’t escape the great bulge-bracket bank retrenchment of 2019 unscathed. According to Bloomberg, which cited a report from compensation consultants Johnson Associates, after the worst first half in a decade for Wall Street trading desks, bonuses for equity traders are expected to decline by as much as 15% from the prior year, while fixed-income traders could see a 10% drop.

The report predicts that the total incentive compensation for investment and commercial bankers will drop in 2019, for the third time in the last four years, as banks grapple with the prospect of another leg lower in interest rates plus what JPM CEO Jamie Dimon and others fear might be another downturn looming in the not-too-distant future.

Traders and investment bankers “haven’t had the revenues that I think they were expecting,” Alan Johnson, managing director of Johnson Associates, said in an interview. “Clients haven’t come back, the volumes haven’t come back.”

On the flip side, bonuses for retail and commercial bankers could increase 5%, as the less glamorous, but more lucrative, side of the banking business continues to generate steady profits.

Over on the buy side, bonuses for those working for hedge funds and private equity are expected to climb as much as 5%, while bonuses for those working in asset management will probably drop 5% thanks to lower revenues.

As Dimon pointed out, the economy is clearly slowing. And ultimately, the degree to which bonuses are cut will depend on how much, and how fast, the economy sinks into a recession.

“The economy is clearly slowing, so how fast is that going to happen I think is the big variable,” Johnson said. “Is it going to slow at a nice, even pace or are we going to have a more dramatic decline?”

Deutsche Bank recently started the biggest Wall Street cull of personnel since the collapse of Lehman, and ultimately plans to layoff some 18,000 bankers as it shrinks its trading business. Citigroup also recently announced a round of layoffs, as did HSBC.

But perhaps the most glaring sign that Wall Street is already bracing for a recession can be found on the bottom rung of the investment-banking latter. As DealBreaker reported on Tuesday, JPM is only planning to extend full-time offers to 20% of its summer associates, the lowest percentage in recent memory. Some groups reportedly gave out zero offers. The bank is also giving out fewer than expected full-time offers to analysts at the end of their two-year program – around 50% or 60%.

For those who are hoping to start a career in finance, there probably hasn’t been a worse time to do that since 2009.

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