Asking for expected bonus numbers - taboo?

rrrrr01's picture
Rank: Senior Baboon | banana points 204

Just wondering if its okay to ask HR about expected bonus numbers for next year, or if its frowned upon. I have an offer from a mm bank outside of new york and wanted to get a better idea of what to expect should I accept. Would contacting one of the junior bankers I met during interviews be more appropriate?

I remember something like this being up a couple of weeks ago but I cant seem to find it ...

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Comments (31)

Dec 2, 2009

You may want to get feedback from a bunch of people first... but you generally have to play it by ear. Either ask the person who you're negotiating your comp package with, or just ask HR. Just don't be wierd about it. Just say something like "I know bonus is discretionary and based off of a variety of factors, but I was wondering what the general range is of what someone in my position would be receiving."

Thats the best way and I think its a fair question. A large portion of total comp is bonus, no one is sweating it out all year for that fat base salary and 10K bonus, so you should have an idea of what total comp will be.

Dec 2, 2009

Her best bet is to befriend some of the analysts during her summer gig and when the inevitable discussion about bonuses comes up she can casually ask, "what is the typical range for the analysts last year"? or "are the analysts here usually paid above or below market?"

While she has to be careful not to seem too intrusive, asking this is context with an analyst you've worked with all summer in my opinion is a totally legitimate question. Plus, you are likely to get a more honest / detailed / better answer than if you asked your "boss", like a VP or associate...they would likely just say that their bank is at market or above market.

Good Luck,
Patrick

Dec 2, 2009

And she should keep in mind that bonuses last year were pretty bad in general.

Dec 2, 2009

It hasn't really been a big deal for me. I asked when bonuses were paid out out of curiosity and one of the analysts just volunteered how big his bonus was this year and what he's expecting next year. Since generally most analysts get the same, I don't think they mind too much about you just outright asking.

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Dec 2, 2009

Great, thank you for your helpful responses. Bananas all around!

Dec 2, 2009

Damn, its raining bananas

To the starving man, beans are caviar

Dec 2, 2009

No.

Dec 2, 2009

I asked the question when I accepted my offer, but I can't say i'd recommend it in hindsight. If you're going to ask, I wouldn't ask what the range could be. I'd phrase it as:

As a reference point and to assist with my financial planning, can you tell me approximately what prior 1st year analysts received?

Lot harder to B.S. around the question when phrased that way.

Dec 2, 2009

I wouldn't ask it at a BB but I asked it at a MM shop and they didn't mind at all. They knew I was comparing them to several other shops so wanted to emphasize that I would be paid the same.

I'm talking about liquid. Rich enough to have your own jet. Rich enough not to waste time. Fifty, a hundred million dollars, buddy. A player. Or nothing.

Dec 2, 2009

Don't ask. Try.

Dec 2, 2009

Thanks for the advise guys. On another note, what would you assume the average bonus for a first year analyst at a smaller MM firm.

Dec 2, 2009

This is a dicey question. The best way (as CompBanker mentioned) is to ask what they have given in the past. That way they can't dodge it with "it's performance and market based, and not guaranteed", and you also don't look like you have $ signs in your eyes.

Dec 2, 2009

This might require its own post, but how do you inquire about your "management discretion" based bonus after a year of work for a small shop?

Dec 2, 2009

Agree with CompBanker - phrase it something like "to assist in planning my personal finances" - went over well when I was trying to find out when my siging bonus would arrive.

Dec 2, 2009

I asked the question after receiving my first offer. I think it's completely understandable for a person receiving a job offer to want a clear idea of what their all-in comp will be. So much of a bankers yearly comp is in their bonus, it seems completely reasonable to ask.

I just basically asked if they gave any kind of guidance for the % of salary that they generally try to pay out in bonuses, at whatever level you are (analyst, associate, etc.).

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Dec 2, 2009

Absolutely ask, just be tactful about it. Also, given the current market conditions, it's also probably good advice to plan to live within your base salary regardless of what they tell you.

Dec 2, 2009

Probably not a good idea to budget your fixed expenses on your total income including bonus. You should probably budget on your base salary only. Just my two cents.

Dec 2, 2009

Thanks.

One other question. The press was talking about how Goldman might not pay bonuses this year. Would this apply only to bankers? Would IM's bonuses be more secure because the fee revenue is more stable?

Dec 2, 2009

wow way to just out your firm's name. congrats though

Dec 2, 2009

Right now I'm thinking of having my rent be 30% (12/40) of my pre-tax income. If my bonus was zero it would be uncomfortable but I shouldn't have to eat into my savings.

Dec 2, 2009

if you're smart, ask the a first year or two that you met or interviewed with

in my opinion, seniors would be slightly off-put (stuck in the ivory tower)

first years will understand that you want to get bottles a few times a year without going broke

Dec 2, 2009

Hold up, your pre-tax income is only 4K a month??? How is that possible?

Dec 2, 2009

What? No, the amount I'm budgeting for rent is the max I'd be able to sign a lease for without needing a cosign. The rule as I understand it is your annual salary needs to be 40x monthly rent.