PayTalk: Buy side or sell side, how much do you want to earn?

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Stockbrokers and equity fund managers are on opposite sides of the same arena - brokers sell the equities which fund managers buy. Their daily lives are completely entwined and many cross the floor to join the other side.

In fact, most of the traffic is in one direction, from fund management to broking. Why? Because brokers are paid so much more than fund managers.

Graduates starting in equities on the sell side can expect to earn more than 35,000 in their first year. If they do well, five years later they'll be getting around 80,000. More senior salesmen and equities analysts will have basic salaries well over the 100,000 mark.

On the buy side, however, things are not quite so rosy. Graduate trainees in fund management this year will generally earn about 25,000. After five to ten years the difference is not so pronounced, with most fund managers and buyside analysts earning 60-80k.

At the top end of the scale, chief investment officers and senior people running major well-known funds can see salaries well over 100,000.

But it's bonuses that make the real difference. On the sell side, in a good year, bonuses can be double basic salary or more. That's well in excess in anything expected on the buy side.

True, benefits can sometimes be better on the buy side many fund management institutions are insurance companies and similar with long traditions of generous employee benefits, like fully-paid maternity leave. Generous stock option schemes are also more prevalent in fund management, because continuity of staff is more important than in broking.

There is a diferent culture, too, with fund managers on the whole working slightly shorter hours and operating to quarterly, rather than daily, performance pressures.

However, as pre-funded pension funds become the norm across Europe, the fund management industry will continue to grow, and so will the pay gap. Eventually, the UK may even see some US-style compensation packages appearing for star fund managers, with bonuses linked to performance by a formula with no upper limit.

Until that day arrives, most people on the buy side will have to cross the floor if they want to catch up - or start picking those stocks (within the limits laid down by the law) for themselves.

Salary history - crossing the floor can hurt your wallet

1990: UK equities, sell side, graduate trainee Joining salary: 17,500, First year bonus: 1,500

1995: Moved to another UK equities house, sell side, equity sales Leaving salary: 37,500, Final bonus: 15,000, New Joining salary: 60,000, First year bonus: 40,000

1999: Left to study for Masters in Finance Degree Final salary: 92,000, Final bonus: 85,000

2000: Graduated with Master's Degree Joined fund management company as analyst

Starting salary: 70,000