Goldman's European business cuts pay after IPO activity slows

A Goldman Sachs sign is seen above the floor of the New York Stock Exchange shortly after the opening bell in the Manhattan borough of New York January 24, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

LONDON (Reuters) - Average pay at Goldman Sachs’ European arm fell 15 percent year-on-year as turbulent markets discouraged companies from listing on stock markets, hitting the bank’s underwriting business hard.

Goldman Sachs International (GSI) reported a total wage and salary bill of $2.45 billion (£1.7 billion), down 6.4 percent, even though headcount rose by 10 percent.

Each employee received around $400,000 in wages on average, down from about $470,000 in 2014, according to Reuters calculations.

GSI’s underwriting revenue declined by nearly 27 percent as plunging oil prices, uncertainty about Chinese stocks and worries about global economic growth stoked market volatility.

This uncertainty has pushed Goldman Sachs -- and other big banks -- to seek to cut costs to offset low interest rates and stricter regulations.

Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein signalled last month that market turmoil, declining oil prices and concerns about profitability across the banking sector meant costs would be cut again.

“We can absolutely do a lot more on the cost side if we have to, especially now, when you have to deliver a return,” Blankfein told a financial services forum in Miami on Feb. 9.

Rival Morgan Stanley said in January it planned to cut another $1 billion in costs by 2017, while JPMorgan Chase & Co’s investment bank is in the middle of a $2.8 billion expense-reduction programme.

GSI’s total investment banking revenue fell only 8 percent to $1.28 billion, however, boosted by strong financial advisory fees. This helped GSI handily outperform a 16 percent decline in overall European investment banking fees last year, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Reporting by Richa Naidu; Editing by Keith Weir