Having spent over 8+ years on sell-side in everything from middle office, front office quant, trading assistant and market-maker/trader I wanted to come up with a way for my subscribers to gauge what kind of compensation they should expect or look forward to on wall street.

Sell-side Banks:

The base is quite standard and very flat across most large and small banks. Most of wall street base pays are quite structured and very similar. It is the bonus that really pays you. I have made a table of the range of base pay you can get in individual titles. As you progress through the titles your pay ranges. Your bonus percentage of base also increases. It is quite possible and very common to get 0 bonus nowadays but assuming a decent year this is approximately the pay structure.

Title Base Pay Range Bonus Range
Analyst 75-100 10-25
Associate 100-150 25-75
Vice President 150-200 75-150
Director 200-275 150-250
Managing Director 275-500 250-500

 

The above is for Front office Sales and Trading roles but translates to most investment banking divisions as well. The base pay is quite same regardless of front office, middle office and back office. It is the bonus that is significantly higher for front office in senior roles as you are the main revenue generators for the firm. I will go through in further details on the individual pieces:

Your bonus is very dependent on how well your desk does. If your desk had a very good year and generated a lot of PnL then it will be usually reflected on your bonus. Many a time even losing desks make money but it is quite dependent on the head of the desk or their boss to determine the value of the employees to the firm even in losing years.

Analyst: Analysts are the junior employees at banks. These are mostly fresh graduates and you get paid like it. My first analyst job I got a bonus of 10K and it was the greatest thing ever. 50% went to taxes but it was still amazing. It is tough to add much value as an analyst but if you have a good MD on your desk then you might get a bonus or maybe even a bonus in the 10-20K range. Most analysts in front office get around 10K the first year I have noticed. Obviously, all bonus depends on how well your desk does as I mentioned above.

Associate: This is the first promotion you get post analyst. Usually you get this level after 2 years as an analyst. Nowadays banks are pushing it to 3 years to get more out of the analysts. Nowadays associates are quite talented with many having MBA’s and MFE’s. Most people with graduate degrees come in as an associate. You are not equipped with advanced degrees and 2-3 years of market experience so you are starting to add significant value. Smaller banks have associates as traders taking risk. You can get 50K bonus quite easily as an associate if you add some good value to the desk with the top end being around 75 at most shops.

 

Vice President: This is the level where you start making some real wall street money. Usually in 2-3 years as an associate you make it to VP. There are several people on wall street who are permanent VP. These re usually employees who have stagnant careers or not much upward mobility. I know people with 15+ years as a VP. Its not the ideal but it all depends on your performance or desk. It usually happens in middle office or back office and not hat much in front office that you are a permanent VP. You are now capable of taking risk or doing deals and being the point person for clients. You can expect significant bonus in this role many a times reaching 100% of base. You usually work together with a Director most of the time but you are possibly given some accounts or you are given a small book to manage and manage a larger book along with a director.

 

Director : If you have been promoted to a director you are now approaching the upper echelon of wall street. You have 10+ years or are a super start if you have less than that and are director (very common). Directors can manage several employees and also desks and take on real risk in their trading books. They are not allowed to get a percentage of the PNL generated from the book with a cap. They are usually given close to 8-10% of PnL but are usually capped 500-700K max regardless of how much you make. IF you outperform in your desk and keep hitting your cap they will usually promote you so you can take home higher bonus.

 

Managing Director : This is it. This is why you entered wall street. This is the ultimate of wall street. It really doesn’t matter what desk or if you are back office or front office MD, you will make close to 1mm. There are no caps on MD pay. There have been front office traders MD who got paid more than the CEO during the glory days. If you are a trader many shops will give you 10% of revenue generated on your desk. Essentially you will get to around 1mm somehow. There are obviously layers of MDs. You might start in the 500-750 for few years with bonus so if you become an MD and are worried you did not get your 1mm relax, it takes some time but you are in the end zone.

Just a caveat to remember for all these salaries and bonus. They are not always paid in cash. The large banks almost never pay it in cash and they are significantly deffered. You have to work a certain amount of years to get the entire bonus. They can be a mix of cash, stock and bonds and have a vesting period.

 

There is one stage above MD at some shops and that’s Partner Managing Director. Goldman is famous for this level. A partner at goldman basically will get 1mm no matter what in base and cash no matter how the company or desk performs but there are many additional strings too.

Good luck and hope this helps you get an idea of the wall street pay structure .