Some mutual fund executives will join investors in counting their losses.

Because of the turbulent equities market, key fund executives will make less this year than in 1997, according to a study by Buck Consultants, a Boston benefits consulting firm owned by Mellon Bank Corp.

Though compensation packages-base salary plus bonus-at fund companies are up for most senior executives, some holding pivotal roles, such as chief executives and investment officers, will see declines this year, according to Buck.

Mutual fund company CEOs' compensation will fall by an average of 10.6%, to $918,000. Executives heading equity investments can expect a pay cut of about 11%, to $423,200 for the year. Executives heading up the fixed-income investments side can anticipate a steeper drop of 13.4%, bringing home $565,500, Buck concluded.

Buck, which surveyed 40 mutual fund companies, also found steep losses in bonuses for certain fund employees. Bonuses, which often make up a significant portion of Wall Street pay packages, could be down as much as 50% in the case of senior managers of stock funds, the study found.

The outlook for pay packages was not uniformly bad. Seven of the 10 job categories covered in the survey are in for increases this year, with chief administrative officers raking in a whopping 34.8% more than last year. Most of the expected increases were far more modest.

Though the market seems to have settled down over the last couple of weeks, losses sustained during the third quarter probably will cast a long shadow.

"This has been a very choppy year for our business," said Arnold D. Scott, a senior vice president, at Massachusetts Financial Services in Boston. MFS hit its all-time high for assets under management at $92 billion in July, when the equity market peaked, said Mr. Scott. Assets under management subsequently slumped to the "high 70s" but are now at around $86 billion, he said.

"If funds underperform and redemptions are up, obviously you're going to see a decrease in pay," said Herbert Hunt, an executive recruiter with H.I. Hunt & Co. in Boston.

"As soon as someone smells a bear in the woods, Wall Street reacts with a knee-jerk reaction," he said.

Mr. Scott declined to discuss specific compensation levels at MFS, but he said the company is keeping a close watch on the bottom line regarding new hires. Still, Mr. Scott said he would rather see pay cuts than layoffs.

However, observers do not anticipate sweeping layoffs at fund companies, unlike their peers on the sell side, where companies such as Merrill Lynch & Co. have fired thousands because of the markets.

But there has been a slowdown in hiring on the buy side.

"I've seen people pausing on expansion," said Anthony Whiting, an executive recruiter with Tasa Worldwide Johnson Smith & Knisely in New York. "You're not going to be able to build up the depth of analytical staff, because inflow and revenues won't justify it."

Even if there is some bloodletting on the buy side, Mr. Hunt predicts, workers at bank-managed fund families will escape the worst. "It's not the bank's primary business," he said.

The top talent among fund managers will be safe, both in relation to compensation packages and their jobs, with companies using the market turmoil as an excuse "to cut dead wood," Mr. Hunt said.

"People who have a good track record are always going to command a good price," Mr. Whiting said.

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