Wall Street bonuses for 2012 will be less than earlier estimates as Europe's sovereign-debt crisis and stagnating economic growth weighed on results, according to compensation consultant Johnson Associates Inc.
"It's the third year in a row where the first part of the year is really good and we say, 'Hey, things are getting better,' and then it's kind of a downer," Alan Johnson, the New York-based company's president and founder, said yesterday in a phone interview. "We were all looking for the more rapid recovery. But it's mildly up."
Wall Street's five biggest banks reported the worst first- half revenue since 2008 this year. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. last month posted its lowest first-half revenue since 2005 and said it would cut $500 million of costs, mostly from compensation.
Incentive pay for senior management, excluding the executives named on proxy filings, will be unchanged to 10 percent higher, Johnson Associates estimated in an Aug. 14 report. That's down from May, when the firm predicted senior managers would get bonus boosts of 5 percent to 15 percent.
The biggest increases are still likely to come in fixed- income and is now forecast to be 10 percent to 20 percent instead of 15 percent to 25 percent, the new report showed.
"They had a terrible 2011, so it's off of a low base," Johnson said. "We hoped that that business would have recovered more dramatically, but it hasn't, so I guess you'd say it's gone from terrible to so-so."
In equities, bonuses will increase between 5 percent and 15 percent, down from the 10 percent to 15 percent estimate in May. Investment bankers may see bonuses fall as much as 10 percent or rise as much as 5 percent, Johnson estimates now, while in May the declines were expected to be limited to 5 percent.
Bonuses for some asset managers and prime brokers will be unchanged to 10 percent higher, Johnson estimated this week, compared with a predicted increase in May of 5 percent to 10 percent.
Wall Street pay has declined more than people realize over the past three or four years and is down "dramatically" from the peak, Johnson said.
There is "that kind of view that everybody in financial services just makes multiples of what they used to while the average person is kind of flat over the last 15 years," he said. "Actually, Wall Street's at pretty much the same place now."
Goldman Sachs set enough money aside to pay an average of $225,789 to each of its employees for the first half of the year, while JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s investment bank's average pay expense per employee was $184,989 for the same period. Wall Street firms typically pay a portion of the money at the end of the year in the form of incentive compensation, or bonuses.