Bankers to get bonus bumps in 2012: survey

Wed May 16, 2012 6:26pm EDT

* Bank employees to see 5-15 pct bonus bump: survey

* More profits will be used for bonuses in 2012

* Fixed income traders projected to see biggest gains

By Lauren Tara LaCapra

May 16 (Reuters) - Big banks are expected to use a larger portion of profits for employee bonuses this year, despite extensive job cuts and a recent outcry from shareholders over excessive pay, according to a closely watched survey of Wall Street compensation.

Bonuses are expected to rise 5 percent to 15 percent for employees across the financial services industry, with fixed-income traders projected to get the biggest bonus increases, according to forecasts by the compensation consulting firm Johnson Associates.

A chart in the Johnson Associates report showed compensation and benefits inching up toward 68 percent of investment and commercial banks' profits in 2012, from about 63 percent last year. The figures are a median projection for eight large banks, based on Johnson Associates' consulting work year-to-date.

The projected rise comes despite significant job cuts, weaker profit estimates from analysts and investor frustration with big pay packages at some banks.

In April, 55 percent of Citigroup Inc shareholders rejected a plan to pay Chief Executive Vikram Pandit $15 million. The vote was non-binding, but was viewed as an embarrassment for Citi's board and management.

Shareholders have been more supportive of pay packages at other big U.S. banks including JPMorgan Chase & Co, Bank of America Corp, Wells Fargo & Co and Morgan Stanley, but big banks in the U.K. including Barclays PLC and Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC have also faced investor backlash over proposed executive pay packages.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc shareholders will vote on that bank's pay proposal at its annual meeting on May 24.

Johnson Associates said 2012 bonuses are expected to be constrained for top executives whose compensation packages are detailed in proxy filings due to "public optics" and regulatory pressures. In recent years, banks have introduced clawback provisions, more stock awards and deferred pay to align employees' risk taking with companies' long-term welfare.

Johnson Associates projects that employees in fixed-income trading businesses are likely to see the biggest bonus increases, in a range of 15 to 25 percent, thanks to improvements in bond markets. Employees who work in interest-rate products are likely to see the biggest bonus gains, according to the report.

Employees in equities trading will get 10 to 15 percent bonus increases, while workers in asset management, prime brokerage and high net worth areas will get 5 to 10 percent bonus increases, the report said.

Hedge fund employees are projected to get 5 to 15 percent bonus increases, the report said, while employees in private equity and retail banking are projected to get bonuses ranging from flat to 5 percent increases. Commercial banking employees are projected to get bonuses ranging from flat to a 10 percent increase.

The only area with a projection of possible bonus declines was investment banking, where equity underwriting and mergers and acquisitions have been sluggish. Bankers could face bonus changes in a range of a 5 percent cut to a 5 percent gain, Johnson Associates said. The firm based its 2012 projections on year-to-date consulting work with big banks

"Economic recovery, varying impact of regulation both globally and regionally, business mix, and ongoing uncertainty in world markets are key 2012 incentive drivers," Johnson Associates said in its report.

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