Most Wall Street workers to get lower 2020 bonuses: study

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Overall, incentives at the end of this year, which include cash bonuses and equity awards, will generally decline, marking the second consecutive year of mostly smaller awards, the study shows.

Retail and commercial bankers will be the hardest hit, with their year-end incentive payments expected to decline at least 25% to 30% compared with last year, while investment banking advisors can expect to see their payments decline by as much as 15% to 20%.

Payments to asset management, hedge funds and private equity staff can expects payouts to be down 5% to 10% from the year before.

“The pandemic is wreaking havoc on many parts of the U.S. economy this year, and the financial services industry is no exception,” said Alan Johnson, managing director of the firm that did the report.

However, while retail and commercial bankers and workers at asset managements firms have seen declines, fixed income and equities traders have benefited from volatile markets driving trading activity.

Workers in fixed-income sales & trading are expected to see bonuses increase by at least 40% to 45% while equities sales and trading staff can expect payouts to increase by 20% to 25%.

“Fixed-income pros will be rewarded handsomely as uncertainty and high volatility contributed to record trading,” said Johnson.

Johnson anticipates the pandemic will continue to hurt the financial services sector, overall, in 2021, but perhaps to a lesser degree than in 2020. Staff cuts are expected in the first half of the year, he said. Early projections suggest modest salary increases and flat-to-slightly increased bonuses.