This is a longish post under a burner account. If you don't want to read it the TL;DR is that I work at a small PE shop as a first year(and now 2nd year) associate and didn't get a bonus this year. Don't think its personal performance or fund performance based(will get that info) and want some advice.
I'm familiar with the buy-side, other career options in finance, and that my path and my choices are up to me so I'm not asking for a "fix my life" type of answer(and don't need to be bashed for doing so) just looking for advice for some of the monkeys who have maybe been down this path before.
Anyways here's my situation:
I work at a small (sub 200MM)PE fund in a major market. We're industry focused and my background is a unique mix of banking and industry work(about a year in each). I moved over to his firm a little more than year ago and have had a great experience so far. It's a small group of partners and associates, all good guys, we've done a deal or two, hours are pretty decent(60 or so a week, fairly flexible), not a 2 year and out firm, and I have a lot of responsibility and essentially do all the busy work on the deals we do (no mid level guys, just associates and partners). Feedback has all been great, I actively work to bring the investor mindset to the table, work to source deals, take on additional projects, etc etc. I'm by no means a gift from god, but I'm hustling and learning as much as possible.
Now with that being said, our year just finished up and it looks like no one at the junior level got paid a bonus this year. Our base salary is a little higher than the industry average(125k base) but with no bonus the comp is still low especially in a major market. There are no other significant perks monetary to mention(no carry, co-invest, etc).
On my contract it stated that bonus was discretionary and while I should have asked for more clarity around that when I signed, I did not(I'm a young guy, but lesson learned).
So that's my situation, I know my performance has been good and I also know the firm is growing and also doing well. We returned some money to investors this past year and are on track to have some good exits this upcoming year. Based on the fund economics, I have a really hard time understanding how they couldn't scrape together something small or at least disclose what was going on. It's also not like we're a lifestyle fund or anything like that, I've had some long days, last minute fire drills, cancelled a vacation, stuff that I completely accept accompanies a PE lifestyle, but in my opinion warrants a PE comp package. All in all, I think that even with the size of our fund, I would have liked to hit 150k or so my first year, so essentially a 20% bonus. I don't think that this is unreasonable, but correct me if I'm wrong.
I'm planning on scheduling a sit down with the partners in the coming weeks to discuss "goals" for the upcoming year so I'll be sure to get an idea of what the situation is.
My questions to the forum are:
What would you do in this situation? Is it time to start looking for other jobs? I don't necessarily feel married to staying in PE long term and I know a lateral would be hard not only because lateraling is difficult in general, but also because my lack of a true IBD background will make it even tougher. I've had some tempting industry offers floating around for a while now.
Is it worth bringing up compensation in my meeting? I know that bringing up comp is generally a no-no, but I feel as though I have to say something because there's no way I'll be productive the next year if I don't know what my progression looks like.
Anything else worth asking for? If they can't bring up cash comp by a significant amount should I just try to half ass my work and put in 40 hours a week? Take a ton of vacation?
I know in the long run the five figure difference won't make a huge deal, but I'm feeling a little low morale right now and kind of want to be petty.
I'm sure will clear up a bit once I have a chat with them, but wanted some outside opinions as well. Thanks for reading.