Are banks willing to buy out techies' bonuses?

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Demand for front office technologists within investment banking is picking up at a time when the bonus pot is looking relatively sizeable. So what are firms offering to lure key talent away?

Bonuses for front office IT professionals are likely to be up this year, meaning fewer people are going to be willing to move from their incumbent role in the near future.

But as we've noted previously, in recent weeks demand for technologists within the equities, equity derivatives, commodities, FX and (increasingly) fixed income, is on the up. So how are investment banks competing for key talent?

Paul Bennie, director of investment banking technology headhunter, believes that sweeping generalisations around bonus payouts are misleading, and many firms are negotiating on a case-by-case basis.

"Within the last fortnight, we've worked on cases where the bank has offered a 15% uplift in base salary, plus a verbal guarantee to match any bonus payouts the employee would have received at his previous employer," he says. "But on the flip-side, senior technologists at certain organisations are happy to walk away from what they expect to be a relatively insignificant bonus for the right base salary and career opportunity."

Obviously, some banks look like being more generous than others this year.

"There are some instances where clients are happy to buy out bonuses, or perhaps pro-rata the pay-out to what they could expect if they'd been at the new institution the full year," adds James Parker, director of the technology and consulting division at Robert Walters. "But generally the people being hired are integral to the business, and are being counter-offered by their existing employer."

However, Simon Walker, director of Project Partners, is more sceptical about the prospect of banks buying out bonuses.

"It's true to say that there's something of a battle for highly-skilled front office IT staff at the moment," he says. "What's more, the stronger candidates managed to survive the cull earlier this year, and need to be lured out of their current employer. However, buying out bonuses is still the exception rather than the rule."

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