1/28/18

Last week I received an offer from a boutique investment bank based in a second-tier city on the west coast (Seattle, Portland, Boise) with a very low base and no mention of bonus on the contract. Does anyone have any advise on how they should go about negotiating a higher base?

Offer is 65k but no mention of bonus in the contract. I was thinking of asking if there is a bonus structure when I was going to speak with them

Comments (78)

1/16/18

Do your due diligence and pull the 2015-2017 IB pay reports. Provide a quick fact sheet and supporting docs with a base+salary number that reflects your level and desired numbers. Negotiate forward from that point. If this is the shop you want to work at then understand that you may be willing to give up comp or have to take lower to accept the position.

Learn More

7,548 questions across 469 investment banks. The WSO Investment Banking Interview Prep Course has everything you'll ever need to start your career on Wall Street. Technical, Behavioral and Networking Courses + 2 Bonus Modules. Learn more.

1/16/18

What kind of base are you talking about?

Below 70K? 60K? 50K?

Realize that a lot of small boutiques aren't going to pay street level.

Make your issue known and ask how their bonus system works. Every offer I've ever gotten had their bonus system at least broadly defined.

1/16/18

Nah this sounds entitled but 50k is bullshit. I have friends who got jobs at places like Aldis out of undergrad doing bs finance work 40 hours a week making 80k starting without bonus. Paying an analyst working 80+ hours a week 50k while you're taking in millions in fees is sick

1/16/18

There are some small boutiques that aren't paying that.

In a small city, 50K base with a bonus of 25K isn't rolling in it, but it's not unheard of. Also realize that at some of the smaller boutiques, hours are closer to 60 than 80+.

I'm not saying this is fair I'm just stating market trends. If the situation really is 50K with no opportunity for a bonus I'd either decline the offer or take it and keep applying for other positions. It makes you question the quality of candidates they're hiring and how well the business is doing.

1/16/18

My response was supposed to be to the guy below saying it wasn't bad. Idk why it posted to yours. Maybe they're hardly closing anything if that's all they offer

1/17/18

This sounds like a fringe investment bank. Maybe peddling some private placements and the like for.

I agree with your thought process except that they are pulling in millions in fees.

My guess is the hours aren't even 60 a week.

Array
1/17/18

LMAO 80k working finance for a grocery chain... ok, bro.

1/17/18
maineiac42:

LMAO 80k working finance for a grocery chain... ok, bro.

https://careers.aldi.us/district Ok, bro?

1/17/18

Gonna side with @slippy777 on this. Worked at a bank in college and across the street was an Aldi's. They used to bring over there deposits. They pay surprisingly well. District mangers $80k, regional managers $120-150k. A lot of time spent in a car traveling I would imagine as a regional manager.

26 Broadway
where's your sense of humor?

1/17/18

$80k as a first year for Aldis an as a fourth year is $100k. All base no bonus. Also get an Audi A2 to drive for personal reasons and work as the company car and free iphone. You work more than 50 hours a week and are on call 24/7. Buddy of mine quit and went into commercial banking.

Has an instance where he was sleeping at 2AM and he got a call the night before a snow storm that there hadn't been a shipment into one of the grocery stores due to snow reasons. His job was to call on his troops, convince people to get out of bed and head in to the store for their $12 an hour retail jobs, find another truck that could deliver the groceries, and make sure they got in.. all before the 8am rush of people came in.

Aldi's philosophy is that it is better to pay a 22 year old kid $80 who has the stress endurance and training from a college education as oppose to paying four 40 year old men with high school degrees and 15 years of grocery experience $50k each. Aldi saves money, but you are by no means not getting worked.

We're not lawyers. We're investment bankers. We didn't go to Harvard. We Went to Wharton!

1/28/18

ok but really you have to see the trade off here... 80K upfront for dealing with groceries for the rest of your life? or less pay (although still more than most) and a massive foot in the finance industry that could take you anywhere.

Id much rather get paid less, with a much higher career potential. 80K is not worth helping grandma get her german groceries.

1/17/18

Damn anyone else see the fully expensed Audi A3 as part of the benefits? Lmao

1/17/18

Yeah you got a brand new 2017 one this year I think my friend said

1/17/18

These are retail slavemaster roles not 40 hour a week finance jobs.

1/22/18

That would be Aldi. They're known to compensate pretty aggressively across undergrad hire functions.

1/26/18

It's a thing.... take a look at Aldi's District Managers

1/26/18

Does that look like a finance role to you?

1/16/18

agree with the above, I'd do your research on what the range is for IB analysts in your city working at boutiques.

1/16/18

how low? all 3 of those cities are cheap vs. NYC. so look at a cost of living calculator and make the adjustment for whatever salary you received + adjustment discount for BB vs. boutique then come back and tell us if it's low or not. also, is this for an analyst role? if so, then you have no experience to lever. so your option is to take it and lateral in 6-12months or decline and keep looking.

1/16/18
1/16/18

Depends on what the offer is.

Learn More

7,548 questions across 469 investment banks. The WSO Investment Banking Interview Prep Course has everything you'll ever need to start your career on Wall Street. Technical, Behavioral and Networking Courses + 2 Bonus Modules. Learn more.

1/17/18

Offer is 65k but no mention of bonus in the contract. I was thinking of asking if there is a bonus structure when I was going to speak with them

1/16/18

that's not absurd assuming this is for first year, given it's in a city like half the cost of NYC and it's a boutique...but ask for clarity on the bonus structure.

1/16/18

Depends. If he's doing 80 hour weeks with only two weeks vacation... $12.5/hr. Ouch. (of course that's pre-bonus)

1/16/18

Idk, $50k is still low.

My bank (granted MM) starts analysts at 85k.

$75k should be minimum.

1/16/18

Do you have anything else on the table? If not, accept the job and try to jump ship asap.

"Elections are a futures market for stolen property"

1/17/18

Raymond James pays their analysts $65k base in Boston and St Pete. Buddy of mine confirmed that, as he summered with them and was making $2500 every two weeks on a prorated schedule. He didn't return.

We're not lawyers. We're investment bankers. We didn't go to Harvard. We Went to Wharton!

1/17/18

Salaries on WSO company database seem to disagree with what i said about RayJ so please disregard what i said.

We're not lawyers. We're investment bankers. We didn't go to Harvard. We Went to Wharton!

1/18/18

GS pays $50k base to their IB analysts in SLC which has basically the same COL as Boise (I assume you're going to Boise bc I don't know why anyone would throw Boise in with those other two cities otherwise). $65k as a base is actually pretty solid and you'll be fine. There's nothing wrong with reaching out and asking how bonuses are structured. If there are other analysts or associates I'd start there. Ask if you can have a call to talk about the job and then have most of the call be about how hey like it and places to live etc and then at the end ask about bonuses, almost as an afterthought. This works if you don't want it to make it look like it's a problem for you.

Good luck!

"I know you think you understand what you thought I said but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant."

2/4/18

Yea it's not at all though in reality. I mean it's not the same experience as GS NYC but still a great starter role.

"I know you think you understand what you thought I said but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant."

2/4/18

Yea it's not at all though in reality. I mean it's not the same experience as GS NYC but still a great starter role.

"I know you think you understand what you thought I said but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant."

1/16/18

is this for a 1 year analyst role? that info would help as well

1/17/18
1/16/18

@richyrich"

50K isn't unheard of though it is pretty low. Double check on their bonus system. At the end of the day if you're off cycle and first-year analyst I'd take it and lateral in 6 mos. It's not ideal but unless you think you can get something better, its something.

1/16/18

$50 seems super low. IMO $70 should be minimum - that was base before jump to $85 a couple years back.

Best Response
1/17/18

Perhaps at the MM/BB level, but if it's a city like Denver and a 10 man shop closing only a few deals a year, $60k with 50ish hour work weeks are more common than you'd think.

1/17/18

True. Only thing I would say is MMs in cities like Minneapolis and Charlotte match the 85 base.

1/18/18

Is that true of banks that are located only in those places? I know MMs that are all over the country (including big cities like NYC/SF) will match their offices in those places to the same base. But I'd be curious if that is the case for regional ones only in that area (which would be more similar to what OP is asking about).

"I know you think you understand what you thought I said but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant."

1/16/18

just get a job at a bulge-bracket. Make more dough that way.

1/16/18

Also the cost of living in those cities is not like new england, So thats another reason

1/16/18

You couldn't pay me to live in Baltimore.

26 Broadway
where's your sense of humor?

1/16/18

For real. It's like a zombie apocalypse.

"Elections are a futures market for stolen property"

1/17/18

Baltimore is quite nice and has a great housing stock, and the rough parts are easy to avoid. That said I'm glad that so many people have this view as it holds down real estate prices.

1/17/18

i would have agreed with you about 2 years ago - the city was making significant progress and rapidly developing. but the whole freddy gray event set the city's progress back several years.

1/17/18

I hate to MS Hayek but I lived there on and off for about 2 years. Worst 2 years of my life. Was attacked on multiple occasions simply because of my skin color (...which is white). I have videos of cops being assaulted and doing nothing about it (in fear that it may spark another race riot). In general, prices are high and quality is low.

"Elections are a futures market for stolen property"

1/17/18

"Drill, Baby, Drill" - Sarah Palin

1/17/18

Regional discounts are nothing new. You'd have to assess the cost of living in said city, and compare that with your salary net of taxes. I'm pretty sure you can live pretty comfortably off of $50K plus bonus in lower cost areas with lower levels of income tax vs. more finance-heavy cities, but again you would have to ask HR about the bonus component.

1/17/18

How many other analysts/associates are at the firm? At some regional boutiques with very lean deal teams, the hiring of junior bankers can be much more sporadic than at traditional MM firms. If there's only one or no other junior bankers and/or it's been a while since they last hired one, my guess is that they just looked at what they paid the last guy/gal starting out (even if it was 5+ years ago) and don't realize how much the market has changed. If there aren't many other junior bankers, I think it's worth asking how the firm arrived at that number and what the bonus range is. However, I'd caution against pulling out comp reports for BB/MM firms in NYC, etc. because as others have noted, you should expect a regional/cost of living discount. That said, you should be able to do some quality research on WSO to find direct comps that are in smaller cities by looking at a company-by-company basis.

Lastly, I'd take a minute to think about what really matters. Candidly, $10K-$20K is not going to impact your life and trajectory that much even though that is likely a lot of money to you now. What really matters starting out is the quality of your experience. If this firm has strong deal flow but the pay is below market, it's still worth considering IMO. If the pay is below market and the deal flow is poor, it's worth pursuing if you don't have any other options, but I'd think twice about staying long term. I wrote a little more about this in the article below. Good luck!

Other thread

1/17/18

I did a lot of thinking about this last night with my parents and friends and decided that the opportunity would be too great to pass over. Everything about the firm is seems great including the deal flow, industry focus, and people. Comp may not be up to par but assuming that I get great deal experience while I'm there that would be all that matters in the long run. Also, considering how many other people applied to this position and that this is an entry level role, I have literally no leverage.

Thanks for the insight!

1/17/18
richyrich:

I did a lot of thinking about this last night with my parents and friends and decided that the opportunity would be too great to pass over. Everything about the firm is seems great including the deal flow, industry focus, and people. Comp may not be up to par but assuming that I get great deal experience while I'm there that would be all that matters in the long run. Also, considering how many other people applied to this position and that this is an entry level role, I have literally no leverage.

Thanks for the insight!

At a small bank you will get paid less so just accept it. At least you are getting paid enough to live in any of those cities. You will get some experience, and if they don't start paying you more, you can find a better place as an experienced hire.

1/17/18

if you want to mitigate your downside and get ahead of the curve, there's a thread on here on how to lateral from boutique to MM. believe @Sil drafted it up

1/17/18

Ok since no one here has any actual advice on negotiating which was the original question in the post. I'll bite.

Was in a similar situation in my first analyst role. Was offered $60K base. I knew that I would accept the role as my goal was to just get a foot in door. Nonetheless, the base was low. I talked to them on the phone and said that I needed a few days to think about the offer and would give them a response by Friday. I listed all of the positives of the role, but then also mentioned that the base was a little below the Street, but that it certainly wasn't a deal breaker. The next day, they came back with an offer of $65K which I accepted.

Look, that's not much but it was the easiest $5K that I ever earned considering that I had really no leverage in the situation. Thankfully, the bonus was at just about Street average.

1/17/18

While it's awesome your offer increased (seriously, great job), I don't think 5k is worth the risk of the OP. Unless you have multiple offers on the table, you could end up negotiating and getting passed on in a worst case scenario.

However, if OP holds it out for at least 1 year with the low salary and transfers to another bank, he will most likely be bumped to street with experience under his belt.

1/17/18

While it's awesome your offer increased (seriously, great job), I don't think 5k is worth the risk of the OP. Unless you have multiple offers on the table, you could end up negotiating and getting passed on in a worst case scenario.

However, if OP holds it out for at least 1 year with the low salary and transfers to another bank, he can potentially (and most likely) be bumped to street with experience under his belt.

1/17/18

Totally agree that you shouldn't do a hardline negotiation. That's stupid over $5K. That's why I specifically said to them that the base wasn't a deal breaker and I just needed a few days to think about the position. Furthermore, I listed all the things that I liked about the position which was a very long list.

1/17/18

50-65K is standard base for regional boutique.

40-45k is low end but acceptable since they realize you have no other choice and are easily replaceable. (you're mostly doing it for the experience).

under 40k and its a chop shop that you should avoid

What concert costs 45 cents? 50 Cent feat. Nickelback.

1/17/18

Nah 40 - 45 is not acceptable, even in a low COL city. Sorry.

1/17/18

why are you apologizing, you're entitled to your opinion

What concert costs 45 cents? 50 Cent feat. Nickelback.

1/17/18

@richyrich", $50k is extremely low for IB, but pretty much par for a "no-name" boutique. It seems like you've already accepted the offer, which I think was the right decision, so congrats on that. Take a look at my lateraling guide, and feel free to PM me if you want to discuss in confidence. This next year is going to be tough, not because of the work, but because many of your friends will out earn you threefold, and that will make you feel bad about your offer, but stick the course and work hard, and in one year, jump ship. Who knows...you might even enjoy the boutique.

@NoEquityResearch, I would normally 100% agree that salaries should always be negotiated. For anyone else interested, look up Ramit Sethi's channel on YouTube and watch all of his videos. They are absolute gold in terms of salary negotiation. The only issue is that salary negotiation only works when both sides negotiate in good faith. When the employer starts off negotiations with a lowball offer, this really is not possible, especially when you have no real leverage (e.g. when you're fresh out of school). In the case of OP, I would have simply accepted the $50k offer because the boutique has already demonstrated an unwillingness to negotiate in good faith when they made you a below market offer. Normally, employers do not rescind offers during salary negotiation unless you negotiate in bad faith (e.g. threaten to accept another offer unless the employer goes higher, ask for 2X the market salary, etc.), but in this case, I would not put it past the employer as it seems their number one concern is keeping payroll as low as possible. It's also not like this is a career role, and I would bet 90% of those starting at boutiques lateral after a year.

1/17/18

Good points and along those lines, I think another issue to consider is whether you want to want to work for a firm that has begun its relationship with you by negotiating in bad faith. In fact, I'd say that's more important than the salary issue.

If there are reasons for the low pay like this is a new boutique that's just getting off the ground, then that's fine, but if you're getting paid below Street so that the MD can make $810,000 instead of $800,000 that year, then that really says something about the sort of people that you're working with. By the end of it, I can guarantee that the salary will be the least of your concerns if you're working for exploitative toxic people.

Nonetheless, still a tough choice if you don't think other offers are available in your area.

1/17/18

You're 100% correct. Unfortunately, if you're interviewing with "no-name" boutiques, you probably don't have many options, at least I did not when I was in this position.

1/17/18
NoEquityResearch:

Good points and along those lines, I think another issue to consider is whether you want to want to work for a firm that has begun its relationship with you by negotiating in bad faith. In fact, I'd say that's more important than the salary issue.

If there are reasons for the low pay like this is a new boutique that's just getting off the ground, then that's fine, but if you're getting paid below Street so that the MD can make $810,000 instead of $800,000 that year, then that really says something about the sort of people that you're working with. By the end of it, I can guarantee that the salary will be the least of your concerns if you're working for exploitative toxic people.

Nonetheless, still a tough choice if you don't think other offers are available in your area.

This isn't really how the senior management at boutique IBs look at things. It's much more about keeping fixed costs low (salaries, rent, etc.). I was with a ~20 person boutique and as a VP sat in on the finance/budget/hiring meetings. We paid better than the above offer from a base salary perspective, but the mentality was much more about how do we limit expenses so if/when we hit a dry spell or economic downturn we don't have to fire people. We kept an 18 month supply of capital in the bank based on fixed costs. I always felt it was a little too conservative, but we didn't have to let anyone go during '08/09/10, which wasn't the case at most shops.

1/17/18

Eh, would really disagree here. Sure, you want to build a cushion if you're running a boutique or in fact any business but that's because it's YOUR business. So, I take that $10K in savings from paying an analyst less and instead of giving myself $810K this year, I put $10K in my reserves for the business.....so that it's more likely that I can continue to run my business. It still benefits me.

Second, even when building a cushion for bad times, you have to ask yourself how that cushion is built, by reducing your salary by $10,000 or reducing the first year analyst's salary by $10,000? So, you're basically back at the same decision point.

When you have any sort of business where 3 or 4 people out of say 20 are running it, every item on the revenue and expense line is really an item on their personal revenue and expense line. This is true for a boutique or any other business.

1/17/18

Take the offer and lateral after a year

1/17/18

To make the picture a little bit more clear its in the west coast and northern

1/17/18

starting to feel like a game of Cluedo.

1/17/18
1/17/18
1/28/18

would be very surprised if DA started at 65. This is probably tulius or some shit

1/21/18

You disrespecting Seattle, buddy?

1/22/18

My bad, I was thinking second-tier west coast cities in SoCal, not in the NW.

1/26/18

Depends on what you will end up with on your resume, what is your takeaway other than salary. What is the next job worth after working at that firm. Are you going to be an employee all your life, or will this be a learning point for starting your own firm. How long will you stay, anything under 2-3 years will be a bad spot on the resume, and you'll end being dishonest. Take what you can, bargain, call out your strengths, but in the end, you have a ton of competition willing to take a job.

1/28/18

1-Click to Unlock All Comments - 100% FREE

Why do I need to be signed in?
WSO is a knowledge-sharing community that depends on everyone being able to pitch in when they know something.
+ Bonus: 6 Free Financial Modeling Lessons with 1-Click Signup ($199 value)
1/28/18

No pain no game.