Wall Street bonuses fall short of already-low expectations

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By Dan Sears

Few on Wall Street were optimistic about bonus season this year — but stingy payouts have still managed to leave many disappointed. 

The consensus among most junior bankers is that most faced yet another year of “s–tty comp,” according to Wall Street’s meme master Litquidity.

The finance-focused social-media account has been barraged with junior bankers complaining that bonuses this year were a “bloodbath” and “across the board bad news.”

Nowhere was that more evident than at Citi, where employees have been informed roughly 20,000 of their ranks will be culled.

While few expected anything too generous given the state of the bank, the lackluster comp only exacerbated the poor morale. 

“Citi bonuses were straight-up disrespectful,” one employee complained to Litquidity. 

Another chimed in that Citi payouts were “savage across the board,” while yet another banker called them “absolute s–t.”

For others, layoffs put things in perspective, “Bonuses were way down but I still got one.”


Wall Street bull
“Citi bonuses were straight-up disrespectful,” one employee complained to Litquidity. Donna Grace

At Goldman Sachs, one employee said of the rank-and-file, “Can’t say anyone was really happy.”

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Another described compensation as “unevenly” distributed with the partners once again getting a good payout and lower-ranking employees getting shafted.

“We said we would pay for performance and that’s what guided our comp decisions across our businesses,” Tony Fratto, Goldman’s head of communications said.

At America’s largest bank, JPMorgan, compensation and morale remained relatively stable.

One employee even went so far as to call his bonus “awesome.” 

While it’s too early to know the overall trend for how each bank paid employees year over year — Bank of America has yet to tell employees their total compensation — the pools at most banks were smaller as a result of a continued slowdown in dealmaking.

Litquidity said the bonus season was “expected” — in part because of the widespread reports this year would be worse than last.


Wall Street sign
Bonuses at most banks were smaller as a result of a continued slowdown in dealmaking. REUTERS

An annual report from compensation consulting firm Johnson Associates at the end of last year predicted bankers could see bonuses dropping 15% to 25% this season.

“Most Wall Street professionals will have to wait another year for a rebound in year-end bonuses,” Alan Johnson, managing director of the firm, said. “For most… it will be another disappointing year.” 

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Of course, the issue is that most bankers think they’re the exception to the rule – and will be the outlier who gets compensated well.

At the same time, many young bankers have inflated expectations after receiving record bonuses for the 2021 fiscal year. 

Those payouts had been fueled by record earnings — and a willingness to pay top dollar amid a labor shortage that led to a war for talent.

An annual report from compensation consulting firm Johnson Associates at the end of last year predicted bankers could see bonuses dropping 15% to 25% this season.

“Most Wall Street professionals will have to wait another year for a rebound in year-end bonuses,” Alan Johnson, managing director of the firm, said. “For most… it will be another disappointing year.” 

Of course, the issue is that most bankers think they’re the exception to the rule — and will be the outlier who gets compensated well. At the same time, many young bankers have inflated expectations after receiving record bonuses for the 2021 fiscal year. 

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Those payouts had been fueled by record earnings — and a willingness to pay top dollar amid a labor shortage that led to a war for talent.

Indeed, management in 2022 had painted the bonus drought as a one-off, sources said. 

Unfortunately, that doesn’t appear to be panning out.

“The bar was so low for giving people a small percentage uptick” that managers were certain 2023 would be better, a source said.  

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