Equities market bonuses to outshine debt

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Debt markets professionals are likely to prove the poor cousins of equities specialists when it comes to this year's bonus payouts, according to a report by TMP Worldwide, the executive search firm.

A senior managing director in high-grade debt capital markets can expect total compensation in the region of $750,000 (€848,000) to $1m (€1.13m) this year, says TMP. That is half what a peer in equity capital markets might expect to earn and far behind the $4m that some equity capital markets high-fliers will take home this year.

The TMP report, Financial Services Compensation 2000, states: &quotA stellar year in equity underwriting and a downright lethargic one in fixed-income potentially has set the stage for another round of internecine warfare between professionals in the two markets.&quot

The only bright spot in the debt universe is in high yield - ironically, the worst performing market. High yield professionals in Europe can expect to be paid sums close to those earned in equity capital markets, up to $3m.

High-yield has bucked the trend among debt markets in that a number of firms, including Deutsche Bank, JP Morgan and UBS Warburg, have been investing in building up teams.

However, the logic for the payouts is hard to argue against. TMP estimates that bonus pools at major investment banks will have grown by between 10% and 50% versus 1999 - overwhelmingly as a result of surging activity in equities markets.

While stocks have stumbled badly at least twice this year, they have outperformed bonds both in terms of total returns to investors and the size of the fees paid to underwriters.

Equity versus debt as a percentage of total securities underwriting has grown from 8% in 1999 to around 15% this year, according to figures supplied by Thomson Financial Securities Data.

The potential for ill-feeling is considerable.

The nearest comparison, says the report, is with 1998. Then, the fall-out generated by Russias spectacular debt default and Long-Term Capital Management's near collapse wreaked havoc on many firm's fixed-income operations.

When it came to calculating year-end payouts, many equities professionals complained that they were being made to subsidise debt-related losses by accepting lower-than-expected bonus payments.

However, TMP argues that inter-divisional warfare is less likely this year as compensation arrangements have been more closely aligned with business unit performance and, in some cases, with individual profit and loss accounts.

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