Bonus advisory day is soon upon us. It's the day you'll have waited 12 months for. Judgement day.
Now a lot of people want to know exactly what happens on bonus day to us front office types. I mean what is the process ? Is there a bonus day at all, or do the bosses simply shove the money in your bank account and let you find out how much you've got when you next check your account balance at the ATM ?
Well every bank has its own process, but I've worked at a few both in the UK and the States, and I can tell you a few universal truths. In my experience, you do get called into a room - usually by the desk assistant. And yes, your immediate boss is always involved. But the money shot only comes after a few months of being on the end of expectation management; no matter where I've worked, the management always comes up with all sorts of excuses as to why a particular year's bonus pool will be subject to hold backs or claw backs, or where there's a 'rogue' desk that bet and lost the ranch, etc.
So, the key question is how long this shaking of the proverbial Styrofoam cup by City dealers goes on for in the lead up to bonuses ? Well, some political types start their peacock strut a good three or four months before the big day. Amazing, but true. And these guys are usually jutting chinned, aggressive types who think they're indispensable, or who actually believe they are worth the money they seek. So they cajole, exhort and generally moan to their managers in an effort to try to get a sense of what might be coming down the pike. Of course, they're usually thwarted in this, and they join the rest of us - who just shuffle in to learn our bonus fate with not much of an idea beforehand.
And now to the big moment itself. Can we honestly say that our heart isn't hammering a bit ? Of course it does! After all, you've built up your P&L over a whole year of endeavour. But the payouts are not (for all) as great as the hype might suggest; I'm telling you, it's not Goldman Sachs everywhere (even at Goldman Sachs!). So, you get in the room. Usually there's a bit of small talk, congratulations for a good year, etc (hopefully), but all the time you're wondering how much is it, how-much-is-it, howmuchisit! And then you get handed an envelope. It's not full of cash, of course, but there's a little slip inside telling you the amount. But even as you are delicately, demurely even, trying to open the bastard without ripping it to shreds, your manager is telling you your number. You then have only a few seconds to take it in - and react.
Maybe I'm being melodramatic, but I do remember being opposite the (then) US head of sales at UBS when some of the big hitters were going in to find out their fate. Out of nowhere, this one guy got up ,ran round the desk and actually hugged the boss. And I later heard that another guy got paid a cool million, and just didn't react. Nothing at all. It was only after his boss had a go at him, that the bonus recipient gave this really fake rictus grin, and then walked out the door in silence; you see, not everyone is happy when they win the bonus lottery (I suppose it's just not the same if you are used to winning it every year). As for me, well, I always shake hands and say 'thank-you'. Act like a gentleman and maybe you'll get treated like one (eventually).
In the meantime good luck to one this year end - it's gonna be a tough one!