No one would ever equate City bankers with an order of ascetic monks. On the other hand, staff at Deutsche Bank should soon feel a bit like martyrs. Their boss, chief executive John Cryan, has handed out hair shirts for bonuses, slashing these in reflection of past sins.
After two consecutive years of losses, Deutsche’s 2016 bonus pool has been reduced by about 80 per cent. The best talent, critics say, will simply drop robes and leave. Some of this may already have taken place. Deutsche’s share of investment banking revenues in both the US and Europe has fallen since 2009, according to Dealogic — although separating out how much is a deliberate consequence of restructuring or the unintended outcome of talent flight is difficult.
The surprise, frankly, is that anyone is surprised. Yes, Deutsche’s total annual pay and benefits declined by 11 per cent last year (equivalent to €1.4bn) — but revenues fell by the same proportion. Pay at the investment and corporate banking division declined by more than the group average. Returns on tangible equity did increase.
As a proportion of net revenues Deutsche’s pay bill has stuck at about 40 per cent since the financial crisis. That is better than Credit Suisse — also in the midst of restructuring its investment bank. Its latest compensation ratio rose to 52 per cent of net revenues.
The number of employees has held stable at both lenders, suggesting average pay has indeed been sacrificed. Like other shrinking industries — booksellers, department stores and newspapers — this is entirely normal. Even in the US, where investment banking fees have grown, there is no direct link between pay and success. Barclays, for example, has broadly maintained its US market share since 2010, despite cutting compensation.
The erstwhile Masters of the Universe have been dethroned. Normality, however, does not imply martyrdom.
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