Banker's bonuses: 40% bigger this year

Global financial firms are planning to increase bonus payments as strong financial markets propel banks back to profitability.

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By Ben Rooney, staff reporter

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NEW YORK ( -- Bonuses at financial firms worldwide will increase by an average of 40% this year, according to an annual report released Monday.

Options Group, a New York-based executive search and compensation consultancy, said near-record revenues from fixed-income, commodities and foreign exchange trading will help push bankers' bonuses back up after a slump in 2008.

The report, which was based on data from 300,000 industry professionals worldwide, also showed that bonuses are increasingly being offered in the form of multi-year stock options.

Even with this year's projected rebound, however, bonuses are expected to remain below the record levels of 2007.

Among the financial firms that are expected to increase bonus pay this year are big U.S. banks such as Goldman Sachs (GS, Fortune 500), Morgan Stanley (MS, Fortune 500) and Citigroup (C, Fortune 500).

Last week, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley said they stand to spend $35 billion combined this year on employee compensation.

Wall Street's compensation practices have been heavily criticized by lawmakers and the public for encouraging the risky behavior that helped cause last year's financial meltdown.

Indeed, many of the banks that are now planning to raise bonus payments this year received taxpayer-funded bailouts in 2008.

To help prevent a repeat of last year's crisis, the Federal Reserve is preparing to force big U.S. banks to abide by longstanding rules banning excessive or inappropriate banker pay.

The Fed said last month that a review of bank pay practices will "focus on whether compensation arrangements provide employees incentives to take excessive risks that could threaten the safety and soundness of the banking organization."

The rebound in bonus pay comes as banks around the world have returned to profitability after last year's crisis forced the collapse of many long-standing investment firms.

The Options Group study revealed that bonuses will be largest for employees who were able to take advantage of rallies in key markets during 2009.

"The areas where professionals will receive largest bonuses are commodities, high-yield and investment grade credit, and equity derivatives," said Michael Karp, co-founder of Options Group.

However, the uptick in bonus pay is partly a reflection of much lower headcounts at many global banking and investment firms.

After last year's "unprecedented consolidation" in the banking industry, "bonus pools will actually go further this year," according to the report.  To top of page

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