Nearly two thirds of financial markets professionals in London received no increase in their bonus this year, according to a survey by eFinancialCareers.com.
The online recruiter, which polled 462 bankers, asset managers and other financial staff in February, found more than half the respondents, 52.5%, received the same bonus this year as last year. A further 11.7% received less.
The figures point to a clear split in bonus arrangements, with the top fund managers and rainmakers receiving huge sums but disappointment for those in less lucrative sectors. Only 11.4% of those polled reported a bonus increase of 35% or more, implying financial institutions were highly selective, reserving substantial bonus increases for staff expected to make large profits for their employers.
The accelerating gap between the top earners and the rest is also highlighted in a survey published today by Napier Scott Executive Search. It concluded: "The polarisation between tier-one banks and the rest of the market has become more pronounced, as have the differentials between the top 15% rainmakers and the chasing pack."
Bonuses across the fixed income, credit and structured credit market rose by only 4% but bonuses for equity derivatives staff increased by 22%, according to Napier Scott, which questioned more than 2,500 people.
Against this background, more than three quarters of those surveyed by eFinancialCareers.com, sister company of Financial News, said they were actively seeking a new job. While this figure might have been exaggerated because the respondents were looking at a recruitment website, the company also reported a 35% increase in traffic on the site between late 2005 and early 2006.
Ian Brown, editor-in-chief of eFinancialCareers.com, said: "We expect to see an increase in traffic when people hear about their bonuses but this is a larger-than-average increase. Many people received lower bonuses than they had expected."
Shaun Springer, chief executive of Napier Scott, said: "Bonuses did not match the increase in profits and, while the bonus pool was larger, it went to a smaller proportion of staff." He said the top 15% had received increases up to 50%, leaving little for their less productive colleagues.
As most respondents to eFinancialCareers used private e-mail addresses, it was not possible to judge which firms had most disappointed their staff. However, the sectors with the highest percentages of those polled actively seeking a new job were investment banking, with 10.5%, and asset management, with 9.6%.
In an earlier poll by the Here is the City website, Goldman Sachs topped a 2005 bonus approval table, with 88.8% of its employees who responded saying they approved of the bonus they were given, ahead of Credit Suisse and JP Morgan. At the other end of the table, Citigroup was in last place with a bonus approval rating of 30.4%, just below Merrill Lynch and ING Wholesale Banking.
Only 14% of those surveyed by eFinancialCareers said they were unhappy with their bonus, suggesting many were aware that last year's substantial bonuses were unlikely to be exceeded, despite the profits at many firms.
There is also evidence that firms are less willing to match offers for middle-ranking staff wanting to leave. Thomas Drewry, managing director of the Veni Group search firm, said: "For the best people, they will fight. But the appetite to fight at all costs for the rest has diminished. There have been quite a few departures recently without a serious battle to keep them on."
Nonetheless, the survey results are good news for financial market recruiters. Jonathan Evans, managing director of Sammons Associates, said: "It's the transfer season. Disappointed staff are looking for new jobs and firms are seeking replacements for those who leave even though the industry as a whole is becoming leaner and meaner."