Bonus survey

How did your bonus stack up against others?

A survey conducted by eFinancialCareers found that 54% of finance professionals said they were paid less or took home the same amount as last year in their bonus pack.
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Doughnuts: in plentiful supply this bonus season
<div style="text-align: left;"> Doughnuts: in plentiful supply this bonus season </div>

Was your bonus what you expected it would be? Or are you spitting back at the screen, the aggrieved question: “What bonus?”

If you are a senior executive and took home less this year than last year, you’re not alone. A third (33%) of finance professionals surveyed by eFinancialCareers in its 2011 Asia-Pacific bonus survey said they were paid a smaller bonus in 2011. Those in the highest salary quintile (top 20% salary level) were much more likely to report a decline in bonus (47%) than those in the bottom salary quintile (29%).

And 21% took a doughnut, which as the image suggests, means zero.

The upside is that 32% of the respondents enjoyed an increase. And finance professionals in Hong Kong and China fared slightly better than their counterparts in Singapore.

The survey was launched in February 2012 and eFinancialCareers continued to collect data through March. There were 1,269 respondents, 674 were from Singapore and 343 from Hong Kong/China. The remaining 252 respondents were in Australia. All respondents had their bonuses for 2011 revealed to them by the time of the survey. 

What does a typical bonus look like? It varies from bank to bank, but recruiters say that a senior managing director could have taken home about $1.5 million to $2 million this year, while a newly minted MD might be looking at $600,000 to $1.25 million. If you’re an executive director, $750,000 is on average reasonable, while vice-presidents could take home about $500,000. It was at the associate level where the variance was relatively greatest among headhunters I spoke to, with one saying it was “$300,000, give or take a few hundred thousand”.

But it may be at the perks level where things hurt the most — bankers in Hong Kong have said that options such as school fees were taken away in some departments at various banks, and housing allowances slashed. These losses hurt on the home front, and can lead to arguments about work-life balance and whether the trade-off is worth it.

Amusingly, those with an increase were most likely to cite “personal performance” as the reason for their bonus change in 2011, while those with a decrease were most likely to cite “firm performance”.

Similarly, satisfaction levels weren’t all that surprising. Nearly half of the Australians surveyed (45%) said they were very satisfied or somewhat satisfied. This compared to 40% in Singapore, Hong Kong and China. But guess where average bonus levels were highest in the region: Australia.

In Hong Kong and China, 37% of respondents reported their bonus “was beneath expectations”, with the regional average being 41%. Only 11% of financial employees in Hong Kong and China said their 2011 bonus “exceeded expectations”.

“Considering the results from the investment banks in the second half of 2011 these figures should be of no surprise,” said George McFerran, managing director, Asia-Pacific, eFinancialCareers. “Disappointment among finance professionals, however, should not be ignored, as it is a legitimate source of concern. Firms may not fear retention reprisals this season, given the targeted layoffs and moderation in recruitment activity, but top performers may consider moving on if a better opportunity comes along.”

Bleak outlook
A January eFinancialCareers survey of 895 finance professionals in Australia, Hong Kong, mainland China and Singapore asked for predictions about bonuses sizes during the next three years — 44% said they expect bonuses to decrease in the future, 26% said bonuses would stay the same and only 16% said that bonuses would increase. Respondents cited market conditions as the key factor that concerns them in relation to their bonus, believing that the tumultuous market will potentially lead to a downward influence on total compensation.

“Even when market conditions are tough, financial institutions must consider how to reward their best talent in order to retain them — the payment of bonuses is an important part of that process,” said McFerran at the time.

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