You don’t get nuffing for nuffing
They used to say in the FX market that what you got paid was highly correlated to what you achieved in terms of revenue generation. It’s always struck me as a false claim, one that is completely at odds with the guaranteed bonus culture that has taken hold over the past couple of decades.
Years ago, when I was at Nomura, we were desperate for a spot dollar/yen dealer. My boss, the great Tom Elliot, identified a ‘Billy big dog’ who apparently met our needs and arranged to meet him at some swanky restaurant in Chelsea. When Tom arrived, ‘Billy’ was already there. Tom ordered a gin and tonic and before he had barely taken a sip, Billy put his cards on the table: “I’ll come round if you give me this, that and the other.” Tom replied: “I’ll give you all of that, if you make me this every year.”
Billy’s jaw dropped. “I’m not guaranteeing that,” he spluttered. At which point, Tom asked for the bill from the waiter.
“What are you doing? We’ve not even ordered yet,” Billy gasped.
“It’s bad enough you wasting my time, but I’ll be f**ked if you’re going to waste my money as well,” was the gist of Tom’s response as he got up and left.
Guarantees are fine, but they should work both ways. Recently, I’ve heard of bonuses paid to dealers who had terrible years and prop traders turning down hedge fund jobs because they pay on results only. It’s not as if base salaries put traders on the poverty line, but it seems nobody, at least on the sell side, is prepared to make a stand and say the present bonus system is out of control.