After all those reports about how Wall Street traders and investment bankers were about to get shorted come bonus season despite fat returns from sales and trading businesses across Wall Street this year, it looks like the top rainmakers at JP Morgan have managed to lock in double-digit increases to their payouts while their colleagues would be lucky to get a lump of coal.
To wit, Bloomberg reports that JPM is planning to boost bonuses to traders and salespeople, even as compensation is set to decline across the firm.
Instead of the cuts they had been led to expect, Bloomberg reports that bonuses could rise by as much as 20% for some. Though, to be sure, a 20% bump is still less than the 48% jump in revenue for the JPM markets business, so some might still be disappointed. After all, the business generated more than $23 billion in revenue this year.
The biggest U.S. bank may increase variable compensation for traders by 15% to 20% after the business generated a record $23.5 billion of revenue in the first nine months of the year, according to people briefed on the preliminary discussions. Payouts will vary widely among desks depending on performance, and bonuses could still change as the process is in an early stage, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public.
A 20% bump for traders will come as a disappointment for those hoping payouts would rise in line with the 48% surge in revenue generated by JPMorgan’s markets businesses so far in what was some workers’ busiest and most stressful year ever. Executives are preparing smaller payouts for the rest of the firm, with average bonuses likely to be lower than last year as JPMorgan focuses on reining in costs ahead of an uncertain 2021, the people said. The bank also is planning to freeze raises for most employees at the vice president level and above, the people said, echoing plans by Wells Fargo & Co. to freeze raises for top earners.
Though gains won’t be consistent across desks, and as Bloomberg adds, the “lopsided” compensation between high-earning traders and others at the firm reflects the larger COVID-19 economy, where life has continued on more or less as normal for the ‘haves’, while the ‘have nots’ have seen their whole world turned upside down.
But for traders, commissions have been pouring in amid the most volatile and active markets in years (though, to be sure, swollen loan loss reserves have offset some of the gains). Oddly, while sell-side traders might make out, anaylsts at hedge funds and PE shops might not see as much upside.
Of course, watching millionaire bankers receive fat checks from Jamie Dimon at the close of what has been, for many, a harrowing year just adds insult to injury. But with markets at highs, traders are in a particularly good spot, as even permabull analysts who populate the big brokers research desks have found they can’t raise their S&P 500 year-end targets fast enough.