How much am I worth? European equities trader, Frankfurt

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A panel of specialist headhunters give their assessment of typical pay packages: European equities trader, Frankfurt - salary €70,000-€120,000 ($84,000-$144,000); bonus 100% at best for most; up to 400% for those with good relationships

In the 1970s, it was feared that in future machines would make many of us redundant: whether you were a lawyer, accountant or technician, a big shiny computer would somehow be able to do the job better, faster and cheaper.

Time has proved this to be a fallacy for most of us. For vanilla equities traders however, the nightmare is very real. Programme trading, which has no need for them, is becoming more popular. So is e-trading, where banks' clients take control of trades themselves.

These trends are underway everywhere, but Frankfurt has suffered particularly badly as economic stagnation has kept volumes low and prices subdued.

Simon Vaughan-Edwards, head of the equities team at Alexander Mann Global Markets (AMGM), says: 'The growth of e-trading in financial centres such as Frankfurt threatens to make many traders redundant.'

Many banks have let traders go this year: even top-notch staff have been cut, with management viewing them as too expensive. Few sectors in Frankfurt have seen much activity, with hi-tech and telecoms suffering more than most.

Vanilla equities traders are lucky to be paid a salary of more than €100,000 ($120,000) a year; a bonus of 100% is seen as good, with many likely to get nothing at all this year.

Despite that, some see a silver lining. Andreas Halin, a consultant at Spencer Stuart in Frankfurt, said some recruitment looks likely in 2004 as economic prospects improve. Traders who have lost their jobs may find themselves in demand again.

Paul Tapp, a consultant at Longbridge Associates, said: 'It's a very strange market right now: things are slow but selective hires are going on, with institutions still keen to take on quality staff: if you're good, there should be something there for you.'

But unlike Halin, he saw little chance of a job for traders who had been out of work for long.

Kathryn Ward at AMGM said: 'Most firms are very particular about who they are willing to hire. Equities trading has been hard hit in Frankfurt, with numerous redundancies."

She said anyone without an outstanding track record at a bulge bracket house faced an uphill battle

Given this sobering backdrop, what is the key to survival in this market? Just one thing: a first class contact book.

Vaughan-Edwards said: 'Relationships - especially with funds' central dealing desks - are absolutely key: without them you have virtually no chance.'

He said that in Germany most equity commissions come out of no more than eight accounts, with those run by DWS, DIT, Deka, Actinvest and Commerzbank the most important.

This had helped polarise the market between those traders with contacts at the funds - who can expect to be rewarded handsomely, with bonuses of up to 400% - and the rest.

The good news for those still in their jobs in the latter category is that the market is picking up as the German economy finally shows signs of recovery.

The bad news is that this still may mean no end to the sales and commission drought: only the best placed, with the best relationships, can look forward to 2004 with any confidence.

Figures and commentary by Alexander Mann Global Markets, Spencer Stuart and Longbridge International

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