Dealing with a terrible bonus?

At one of the MM banks that announced this week and got an absolutely horrible bonus. I was top bucket but only got a few K more than some other terrible analysts in my group and my bonus was meaningfully less than 50% of base.

My group had a terrible year but I still got absolutely cranked, was on a bunch of deals all year and closed a few. Constant weekend work and many many 5am nights.

I have a PE job starting next year so I am on the way out I guess, but it absolutely sucks to work your tail off for a junky bonus. I know I make more than most people my age, I'm lucky to have a job, etc but it's frustrating to know that analysts at my title last year made 3x the bonus all because of the economic climate and I worked just as hard. I also made less than analysts in 2018-2020, so it was an objectively terrible bonus even ignoring 2021. I get the base raise / shift from base to bonus makes this even more pronounced, but even from a total comp perspective vs pre-2021 my bonus was bad (and this ignores inflation and the fact that fees this year are still probably 2nd highest ever).

Any tips on how to keep my head up and not feel like I just wasted the last year of my life for an after-tax amount that is incredibly depressing? I just think about how many plans I canceled, things I missed out on, and the mental/physical damage of this job that I endured to get a good rating/bonus and I feel like it was all wasted. I of course have a full weekend of work ahead of me and I cannot fathom being able to do it given how slighted I feel.

Anyone here have any tips on what else I can do? I'm thinking about scheduling some time with my MD to honestly communicate how Im feeling about this (not to ask for more money or anything, but convey how I'm feeling and the mood in the bullpen) but I know it's rationally a bad idea. I feel like I want to / should do something to communicate this. Especially because I'm leaving, I'd love to at least make someone second guess things next year when they propose completely boning analyst bonuses.

This is just a rant really, but would love to hear how everyone else is feeling, especially those who really did put in the work over the last year and were highly rated but got screwed.

Comments (92)

  • Associate 2 in IB-M&A
6d 

Dealing with the exact same situation and not sure how to handle without coming across as ungrateful / defensive etc.

Motivation to grind here just evaporating. Was sweaty all year. For what? Wanted to be here long term but hard to fathom putting in another year at that level of activity for that level of pay.

I think my firm (could be same as yours) is made up of great bankers, mostly nice people, but literally bottom decile management of people. Slaps in the face and surprises, misuse of resources, and lack of punishment for significant under-performers who make other people's lives miserable picking up their slack. And I don't mean guys who try and are learning, I mean the ones who just ghost / log off / literally do not contribute and nobody seems to give a fuck

Don't have advice for you so sorry for ranting right back

  • Associate 2 in IB - Gen
6d 

That's too bad… I'm with you. Just out of curiosity, are they still giving out the same stub bonus this year (so essentially you are making the same as a stub year associate)?

6d 
Kevin25, what's your opinion? Comment below:

just push back on work for the next year and you'll be even

6d 
BankBoy23, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Take it a step further, start sbotaging 

  • 4
6d 
WACC_ing off, what's your opinion? Comment below:

It won't change a thing to complain about comp. If you genuinely worked hard, are perceived well, believe you got a lower ranking than you deserve and have concrete examples to point to on the contrary, then you can bitch about ranking (which translates to pay). But if you complain straight up about the $ it won't go over well - despite being an industry where everyone is greedy and focused on the money, it leaves a sour taste in peoples mouth when a junior complains about their pay

6d 
BankBoy23, what's your opinion? Comment below:

No offense dude, but anyone who's been in banking can relate to OP's stance. Plus he does have concrete points about why he should be getting materially more than folks who did nothing. Lots of us have been there where we've done excellent work and we're not just kidding ourselves, and management might ignore or downplay it in order to back into a comp number that they're more comfortable with for fiscal reasons and then give you the weird feedback justification that does not tell the story at all of what someone's year might've actually been like.

OP brings up greats points about the misuse of resources, other mismanagement, etc. that drives so many ppl out of the industry, who might be talented bankers and good people 

  • 4
6d 
Username110011412, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I'll make the assumption you are great at your job / top bucket / worked very hard, etc. They probably paid you ~40k gross when a normal non-'21 year is ~50k gross? You're this distraught over 5k, especially when people are getting laid off? Just some perspective...

  • 2
Controversial
6d 
Smoke Frog, what's your opinion? Comment below:

You already have the PE job secured and said weak analysts basically got the same as top analysts.

So perhaps you need to accept some responsibility for acting like a hardo for no reason?

When I had to study for the series 79 as a first year, my boss said anyone who got more than 85% was not efficiently using their time, since it was a pass fail system and no one got any benefit from a high score.

I can't help but feel like this applies to you.

You had the exit opportunity in hand, knew it was a bad financial year and must have been cognizant the bonus buckets wouldn't be dramatic this year given your bank's performance.

How to deal with only making low six figures and not mid six figures as an early twenties kid?

Try crying about it.

6d 
BankBoy23, what's your opinion? Comment below:

That's a stupid mentality. Someone is supposed to know that they'll get exactly the pass rate and not give themselves any cushion to pass? They'd have to take it again if they failed, that sounds like a lot more work than studying a little bit more to ensure a pass the first time.

  • 3
6d 
Smoke Frog, what's your opinion? Comment below:

To me the bare minimum means working to lock in mid bucket, which is what I get ranked every year pretty much, a 3 or 4.

Never coast in such a way that superiors notice and could get you canned.

Also, do you best to be friendly with the staffer.

  • 1
6d 
Smoke Frog, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Thanks for weighing in first year. I'm sure you've posted lots of helpful advice under your anonymous name. Let's get to the point where anon names just can't post and whine 24/7.

Telling a crybaby analyst who made six figures to not complain is a horrible take?

Man some of you need to come accept reality and stop being fools.

  • 1
  • 1
  • Analyst 2 in IB-M&A
6d 

In the same position as you, possibly the same bank, and feel totally fucked over. Grinded all year for a dog shit bonus number. Got top bucket and everything. Told my MD in my review that I was pretty disappointed he said there was nothing else I could have done, it was just a bad year. Putting in minimal effort from here on out. 2023 doesn't look any better for the M&A market so why tf would I kill myself to get another shit year of comp.

  • Research Associate in AM - Equities
6d 

I work in a different space currently (not IB), but this happened to me after my first year at my current company and was pretty pissed, and then stopped working hard out of feeling insulted. This was noticed within two weeks and did considerably more damage to myself and more importantly the people around me (a presentation I was supposed to make but didn't resulted in my boss getting fired, not even joking). 

The penalty of people not wanting to work with you ever again and having a bad start to the year will change your mind on this.

  • Associate 3 in IB - Cov
6d 

Quiet quitting is your friend.

If something takes you 3 hours....take 9 hours to do it(while watching Netflix or something) 

Don't check emails for most of the weekend.

Don't check your work.  Just make a first draft and fire it off.

Go to bed before midnight 

  • 6
  • 1
6d 
falconeagle, what's your opinion? Comment below:

OP - first of all really sorry to hear about your situation, it absolutely sucks no two ways about it. Having said that, at least you know now one of the "secrets" of this industry (in quotations as it's not really a secret except that few people on here or in real-life like to say it) - so much of your career success in finance is down to luck. Of course you have to be smart and work hard - but if you look at the most successful people in this industry (billionaires/guys making $10m+ a year) with very few exceptions they happened to be in the right place at the right time. Guys who made enormous bank during the 2000s boom years might have ended up instead getting fired if they'd been born a few years later and thus joined the industry in 2008. British prime minister Rishi Sunak might have been a nobody working some generic corporate development job if he'd gone into banking in 2008/9 also. Equally a number of my ex-colleagues in MF PE made a lot of money mainly due to the crazy bull run of the last 10yrs (of course they worked hard and were smart, but they were also undoubtedly in the right place at the right time).

I say this not to make you feel worse about your own situation - but to just agree with you that yes this absolutely sucks, and yes it was completely out of your control (as you quite rightly said, if this was 2021 you would have got an awesome bonus).

So where can you go from here? Personally (as someone with 10yrs experience in IB/PE) I would echo what others have said - complaining about your bonus will do precisely zero unfortunately. But what you can do is ease up as much as possible for the next year, particularly since you have an offer in hand - of course don't slack off to the point where it's openly talked about (as another guy said aim to be lower mid-bucket), but just stop going the extra mile. Do as little as you need for it not to be noticed, and stop worrying about being a superstar.

So to try to look at the silver lining here - you can now afford to be much easier on yourself this year (since as you said it likely will make minimal difference to your comp). Aim to be a lower mid-bucket analyst, and use the extra time you have to try to fit in something you've been meaning to do - whether it's hitting the gym more, catching up on your reading, getting back into dating. Thinking about it this way will make the next year or so much more bearable I reckon personally.

And finally, the bright side of career success/comp being so much down to luck/industry cyclicality - assuming you do go into PE and stay in this industry, there will equally be years like 2021 where your team (or even you personally) haven't done as well as you'd have liked, but you get an awesome bonus nonetheless, purely as a function of the job/macro environment. So if you hang around in finance long enough, at some point you should find yourself having a year where there's a reverse of the current scenario hopefully.

4d 
yr5jx9nk, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Agreed. This is actually a blessing. My first bonus was AWFUL (in absolute sense and relative to 2021 bull market) and I was PISSED. Ended up making me realize almost no amount of money would be worth banking / PE hours. Now in corp dev and my TC might be on par with / exceed banking analyst buddies while only working ~45-60 hrs a week. I use all that free time to do things that genuinely fulfill me, like investing in my relationship, running / lifting, cooking, dining, enjoying the arts... the list could go on.

If you feel really crappy about it maybe that's a sign banking / PE isn't for you. Or maybe it is. But there are plenty of other high-enough paying careers where you can still enjoy life.

  • 2
2d 
Upper_Lower_MM, what's your opinion? Comment below:
falconeagle

British prime minister Rishi Sunak might have been a nobody working some generic corporate development job if he'd gone into banking in 2008/9

He (could have been) just like me

  • 1
10h 
sswoof, what's your opinion? Comment below:

This.  It's better to be lucky than good.  100% of the time.

There's only one thing I'd add to this response.  Use your remaining time wisely.  Yes, take your life back as falconeagle suggests.  But, be on the lookout for opportunities to work on things that will further your skillset.  Maybe you get staffed on a buy-side engagement with an awesome VP/associate who can give you a solid experience on how to build an bespoke operating model for XYZ business from the ground-up, etc.  

Totally agree that the useless/garbage pitchwork (which I saw a ton of as an analyst in 2008) should get B- effort.  But, you don't want to apply that framework to everything and join your PE job with only 6-9 months of actual modeling, valuation, and analytical skills (and at worst, in the wrong headspace).  In PE (for most places at least), you're throwing yourself back in to swim with the sharks, and you want to come in with every advantage that you can bring.

  • 3
6d 
Lockwood, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Sadly OP you just have to suck it up.

You have your exit, focus on that. Regret is a terrible thing and can be very destructive. 

I would scale back and push back in staffing etc. Ficus on doing the bare minimum to get by until your PE job begins. 

It's a dog shit market. IB juniors - if you are in MM and getting killed on staffing then might as well step up to a good EB or BB to get the pay reward for the sweat.

TMT M&A - London
  • 1
  • 1
6d 
Defier Of the Odds, what's your opinion? Comment below:

This is why you need to not try as hard / take the job so seriously as if it's life or death. You never know what the figure will be. Don't try as hard moving forward.

  • 1
Most Helpful
  • VP in PE - Growth
6d 

I started in banking in 2009 and got a $3k bonus after dealing with constant organizational change and horrific hours. Took it very hard and was bottom of my class for the rest of my banking stint. Jumped to a a crappy PE fund out of desperation making $60k base and then to a small fund that could never get over $100m. Spent time at one larger fund but did not mesh with the team. I took a couple years off and wondered if it might be time to switch careers. Then I found a small shop with nice people in a smaller city. In my 5 years, we have raised over $1B and I am about to make partner and work 40 hours/week with good comp.

TLDR: careers are long. Not even a third of the way through mine and lots can change. Keep going.

  • Works at Other
3d 

This gives me hope because my situation is pretty similar, albeit better than yours, but same thing, horrible hours and people without the reward.

It is a slow crawl but every year to two years I look back at where I was previously and am surprised as hell to find myself where I am. 

  • 1
6d 
Dr. Rahma Dikhinmahas, what's your opinion? Comment below:

You can't benchmark against years that people were overpaid.  Last several years were frothy as hell for so many reasons, and it became a virtuous cycle for those fortunate enough to be in IB because you not only had fat bonuses due to high volumes, you also then had even fatter bonuses to attract more people.  It's a bubble dynamic.  So I don't agree that your low bonus this year is objectively low.  I think the last several classes got lucky to be in the right place at the right time.

And honestly, you did too.  You went through PE recruiting last fall when things are still hot.  The next class won't be nearly as lucky.  They're going to look at you the same way you're looking at the classes before you.  

Feel your pain but you gotta count your blessings here.  You have a highly, highly sought after job waiting for you at a time when many of your peers are praying to just hold onto their less desirable jobs.

  • 6
5d 
BankBoy23, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Completely agree with this. A lower bonus than you were hoping for after having your next step lined up should really be an afterthought. 

  • 2
5d 
Dukha, what's your opinion? Comment below:

This kind of simping is weird. Total comp is still down vs prior to 2008. Pretending like 2021 or 2020 figures were unprecedented is ridiculous. They were only starting to get back to pre-financial crisis comp levels in actual dollars, not even adjusted for inflation.  Jr comp in banking is hardly competitive for the hours being expected to be put in, which is why it has experienced such a significant brain drain and why less than half the analysts are capable of functioning independently.

5d 
Dr. Rahma Dikhinmahas, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Why are you comparing a bust year (2022) to "prior to 2008" which were boom years?  More reasonable comparison would be 2022 vs 2008.  

Or if you want boom vs. boom, compare 2021 to 2006-07.

Those comparisons will look pretty favorable to the current class.

Since you want to talk about hours: what makes an analyst entitled to make 4x the average American in 2021, when the average American is working at least half as hard, is 20 years older and many sectors of the economy are suffering?  Deal volumes, that's what.  The bank gets paid, analysts get paid.  Analysts didn't work 4x as hard as the construction worker who made $50k.  They got paid for deal volumes.

Now tell me about deal volumes in 2022 and especially late 2022.  It's really not that hard.  

  • 3
5d 
Ravena, what's your opinion? Comment below:

This is the industry you've decided to join. While I am a little surprised analysts got hit as hard as they did, given you have no control over revenue, your comp is often more a function of the aggregate business than it is your personal performance. As you progress, you need three things to happen to have a good year: 1. Your firm needs to do well, 2. Your group needs to do well, 3. You need to do well. While it's frustrating, it's a rounding error in what will be a 20-30 year career.

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
5d 

Just be thankful you even have a white collar job--the economy is getting harder on white collar and a richession is coming 

  • 2
5d 
martinmurphy, what's your opinion? Comment below:
[Comment removed by mod team]
5d 
nataliagonzalez, what's your opinion? Comment below:
[Comment removed by mod team]
4d 
FlyingBoat, what's your opinion? Comment below:

My guess is that you have revealed your offer from PE and your bank knows you're leaving so they screw you with bad bonus. 

  • 1
4d 
CompBanker, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Interesting perspective here. I'll share some of my own:

1 - You cannot just look at overall revenue being up and assume this means bonuses should be up. Remember, banks went on a hiring binge in 2021 due to the deal flow bonanza. Headcount is up significantly so a more relevant statistic would have to be revenue/employee (which is also flawed due to the various different titles / pay buckets). Furthermore, some banks pay signing bonuses or guaranteed bonuses to lure talent away from other firms. If an MD / D was offered a guaranteed bonus in their first 1-2 years back when they were recruited in 2021, this is going to materially hurt the overall bonus pool.

2 -  I cannot speak to bonuses in the 80s/90s but I don't think it is a fair comparison. The industry has matured significantly and now you have a bazillion banks all chasing the same mandates and dragging down average fees. I also suspect there is a degree of exaggeration. When I got my banking analyst job offer in late 2006 when no one foresaw the '08/'09 collapse, my base salary was $55k (I believe the street base was $60k). My bonus paid in summer '08 was $70k. This was considered a good year as transactions didn't really slow down until Lehman officially collapsed later in the year. I fully appreciate inflation, but the arguments above that pay is way down versus the 'good old times' doesn't jive with my personal data points.

3 - The difference between middle and top buckets at the time was just $5k - $10k. I don't think this has changed too much. The reality is that the additional cash compensation for the extra time/effort required to be top bucket is not worth the grind. The payoff comes in the form of improved reputation, exposure/learning, exit ops, ability to do well in your next job, protection from layoffs, etc. These are FAR more valuable than the incremental cash - particularly when measured over the length of your career. I'm saying this as the person who pretty clearly cranked longer hours than any other member of my analyst class (as measured by who else was in the office at 4am most nights and weekends as people weren't really able to work from home). The PE recruiting timing was different when I was an analyst (most recruiting happened +/- 1 year into the job), but if you look at who was successfully exited to PE and had a successful career, there is definitely a correlation between success and those who cranked/super smart.

4 - In terms of an action plan, it's hard to say. I don't recommend completely switching off but effort is not binary - there is a very strong argument for taking your foot off the gas and working a few hours less each day. This can be very challenging for people who are perfectionists or petrified of making mistakes, but you should be able to get 95% of the way there on your work deliverables even if you work two hours less a day. Two hours doesn't seem like much, but two more hours of sleep a night will be a godsend for your mental and physical health.

5 - Complaining to your MD won't really help, but it could hurt you. I don't recommend it. They already know how you feel. Meanwhile, the other junior employees (Associates / VPs) are probably feeling the exact same way so you'd just be preaching to the choir there.

Obviously not the best situation but such is the nature of working through a downturn.

CompBanker’s Career Guidance Services: https://www.rossettiadvisors.com/

  • 10
4d 
sick_willy, what's your opinion? Comment below:

it's a bonus. people are out there getting laid off...

look, i get it's crappy, but that's part of working in ib/pe/hf. people get zeroes or fired many times for a reason outside their control e.g. bad investment(s), pm blows up, firm shuts down, etc. you're young, but you'll learn it's not a linear path, esp. depending on what route you go on. sucks, but it's part of the industry. plus, finance people compensated more than fairly even layering in those bumps / non linearity. get paid a lot gambling other people's money and worst case you're fired and get another job. best case and you make a ton of money. we're not saving lives out here

  • Associate 1 in PE - Other
10h 

Making bad investments isn't typically "outside their control" 

6h 
high hopes, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Making bad investments isn't typically "outside their control" 

Are you dense? He obviously meant bad investments made by other (or before someone joined)

same with S&T blowing up the bonus pool for BB IB

4d 
the smart, what's your opinion? Comment below:
[Comment removed by mod team]
11h 
CreditAnalyst85, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I hear you and it absolutely sucks. Nothing you can do.  This will happen gain, you can count on it.  Life is messy.  And it's worse when you get shafted or even laid off after grinding so hard when you're making hundred of thousands of dollars.

If motivation is hard to come by now, I get it.  Do a decent job and leave on the best terms possible so you don't burn bridges. But you already have another job.  As much as you hate to hear it, its about building a career instead of counting each bonus.

Don't bother talking to anyone about your disappointment.  They're well aware.  

10h 
CreditAnalyst85, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I think the lesson to be learned is a bit broader than "bonuses vs worth ethic".

In school you are in a bubble. If you do as you're told, follow clearly laid out steps, and get to the "correct" answer, the appropriate reward follows. 

That's not how the real world works, and it takes some time and bad experiences to learn this. This is not a realistic approach to life and it's frankly one extreme side of the spectrum of how to approach life.  The other extreme is the douchebag who provides nothing of value but politics his or her way to the top.  You need to balance doing great work/bringing real value with building relationships so that you're simply a well-liked, trustworthy person.  It takes time to do that but that's what can help get you paid well in years like this.  And money is why we all got into this business, right?  More importantly, your rolodex is what gets you jobs after a few years, not the scummy, dime-a-dozen headhunters.

  • 3
  • Associate 1 in PE - Other
10h 

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10h 
alwayslearning000, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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7h 
Dudesdudes96, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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