The news of Goldman Sachs bowing to public pressure (even though Kenneth Feinberg takes credit for the move) and announcing no cash bonuses for senior executives came as a bit of a shock to me, I must admit. Receiving all your bonus in heavily restricted stock defeats the purpose of a bonus if you ask me, but I'm a notoriously short-term thinker in matters of compensation.
Now a lot of financial journalists are saying that Goldman's decision is the death knell of the cash bonus, period. That banks will increase salaries across the board and that year-end bonuses will no longer represent 60% of the average banker's all-in comp. This article from Business Week takes it a step further and puts forward the idea of reduced salaries and eliminated cash bonuses for bankers, essentially turning a Wall Street banker into just another clock-punching shmoe.
Instead of 60 percent of investment firm pay coming from year-end handouts, more will be in salary. And there may be less of that too, because of the pressure on banks from the government and myriad critics to become sounder institutions by raising capital and taking fewer risks. That will reduce profit and the ability to pay.
So this got me thinking. As miserable as the job is most of the time, what is the minimum all-in annual comp you would accept to do this job? Obviously, I realize different career paths will have different answers. For example, I'd sooner do gay porn than ever go back to work for a bank. But for the right money, I could probably be talked into trading again. Probably.
Here's where the prestige factor comes in. Would you take $36,000 a year all-in to be able to tell people you work for GS/MS/PJ? Be honest, now, because I know there's a few of you out there who would.
Let's make this a serious discussion, because I'm curious. Let's assume a 51-week year at an average of 85 hours per week. That's a total of 4,335 hours. Now if we look at the current average all-in pay for first and second year bankers, it probably falls somewhere around $85,000 (across the board, on average remember). That works out to $19.60 per hour.
I know we don't like to think of things in those terms and admit to ourselves that journeymen plumbers make more than bankers on an hourly basis, but for this exercise it is the easiest way to compare apples to apples and arrive at a baseline we can agree on.
So if today's average first and second year bankers make $20 an hour, give or take, what is the least amount (hourly) that you'd be willing to accept and still work in banking? At what point does that barista job at Starbucks start looking good? And, in all seriousness, would you be willing to work for all salary and no bonus and, if so, what would that salary number have to be?