Bond desks’ feel-good factor

Despite bank cutbacks throughout 2002 most fixed-income bankers feel secure in their jobs, according to a survey by City headhunters Jared James Associates.

Matthew Pitt, head of research at Jared James, says: “Cautious optimism is perhaps the best description of how fixed-income professionals feel about their jobs.” Pitt admits this is perhaps surprising given the recent job cuts at banks including Bank of America, Bear Stearns and CSFB. But, he says: “For the most part respondents feel that whatever lay-offs banks are going to make, they have already made.”

However, although 64% of fixed-income bankers feel secure, the breakdown is not evenly split: only half of credit research analysts say they feel secure or reasonably secure in their jobs, whereas 80% of debt origination and debt sales staff feel secure.

The report, Jobs in fixed-income: an employee perspective, surveyed 200 bankers split evenly between credit research, fixed-income origination, sales, trading and syndication. Respondents were asked whether they feel pay levels are fair, whether now is a good time to move jobs, and what their outlook for the fixed-income markets is in general.

On pay, 61% of respondents feel they are fairly remunerated and only 2% – all in research and sales – believe they are overpaid. With salaries for the most senior credit analysts now often between half and one million dollars their colleagues on the buy-side may agree that analysts’ remuneration is generous. And yet at the same time 45% of syndication professionals feel they are underpaid, the joint highest amount with origination.

Pitt speculates that a larger number of origination and syndication staff feel underpaid probably because they see themselves as the breadwinners – winning mandates and distributing the deals. And he adds: “They are measuring their current salaries against the much higher packages of the past.” In comparison with remuneration at the end of the 1990s, the height of the technology share bubble, levels in these areas are likely to be comparatively low.

When it comes to whether bankers think it is a good time to move jobs, just under a third believe the market conditions are favourable for a move. Syndication and research are least optimistic about their prospects of finding another job – with 85% and 75% respectively feeling it is a bad time to move.

The survey’s last question asked whether bankers are optimistic about fixed income over the next 12 months, with 79% of respondents saying they are. However, it is surprisingly origination professionals, usually the most optimistic, who are most pessimistic – 40%. As Pitt says: “Most bankers seem to think the worst is over and the good times could be just around the corner.”

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