(Jan 23): Global banks including Morgan Stanley and UBS Group AG are cutting investment banker bonuses in Asia after deals cooled, with senior employees taking the biggest hit, people familiar with the matter said.
The Asia ex-Japan bonus pool at UBS’s investment-banking unit fell about 14% for last year, while Morgan Stanley’s is about 9% lower, the people said, asking not to be identified because the matter is private. Citigroup Inc., which had its best fourth-quarter at the business since 2017, reduced its pool by about 6% as it zeroed in on costs, a person familiar said.
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. kept overall bonuses largely flat, though it raised spending on variable compensation for top-performing bankers, another person said.
Asia has struggled to maintain a long boom, in part as China’s economic growth has slowed to a three-decade low, pressured by the U.S. trade war and tightening bank liquidity. Deal-making in Asia, excluding Japan, waned last year. The value of mergers dropped by 9%, data compiled by Bloomberg shows. A compression in fees has also continued, one of the people said.
UBS underperformed last year as it took hit from being suspended from sponsoring equity sales in Hong Kong, the world’s busiest initial public offering market. The Zurich-based lender has also trimmed costs and is restructuring its businesses as part of a global revamp. Earlier this month, the bank was again cleared to sponsor IPOs in Hong Kong.
Morgan Stanley cut the Asia bonus pool after lower merger and acquisition fees, the person said, with overall investment banking revenue declining about 12%, a person said. The bank had a record year for the business in 2018, boosting its bonus for the region by the double digits, the person said. Citigroup’s Asia investment banking revenue rose 4% last year, a person said.
Media representatives for all the banks declined to comment.
Across the major banks, managing directors and executive directors are facing the biggest reductions of between 9% to 12%. Bonuses for vice-presidents are largely flat, while most associates got a slight raise, the people said.
Total compensation for performing senior bankers ranged between US$1.25 million ($1.69 million) to US$1.75 million, depending on the geographical location and sector coverage, people familiar with the industry trends said. For junior managing directors, the range was US$1 million to US$1.25 million, they said.
Globally, banks have benefited from buoyant markets and added stimulus. In particular JPMorgan Chase & Co., Morgan Stanley and Citigroup saw blowout quarters on their fixed-income desks at the end of last year.