Cha-Ching! High Yield Brings High Bonuses

While returns in the 40% to 50% range portend a 2009 Grinch-free holiday season for most leveraged loan and high yield bond professionals, those dedicated to selling and trading junk bonds are on track to receive the highest bonuses on Wall Street this year, according to a new compensation study. (Leveraged loans sales and trading hasn’t done as well, but they aren’t looking at anything Dickensian either. More on that in a bit.)

Everyone on the high yield bond team, from the associate to the head of Americas trading looks poised to receive a bonus 45% to 50% higher than last year, according to the 2009/2010 Global Financial Overview & Compensation Report released this week by Options Group.

A few examples are as follows:

A director in either sales or trading, a level where salaries fall in the $150,000 to $200,000 range, stands to receive a bonus of $400,000 to $500,000, possibly $600,000 on the trading side.

A managing director, whose salary likely sits somewhere in the $250,000 to $350,000 range, is looking at a bonus in the $1.3 million to $1.7 million range, possibly $1.8 million on the trading side.

And the head of Americas sales stands to take home a total compensation package of $3.5 million to $4 million; while his counterpart in trading is looking at $5 million to $6 million.
But what of those working on the loan desk? “I would say leveraged loan compensation will be at least 20% to 30% below high yield levels, so I would take those numbers and subtract out 25%,” said Eric Moskowitz, head of the compensation consulting practice at Options Group. “High yield personnel will make the big bonuses this year, not levered loan people.”

So the leveraged loan folks won’t take home the biggest bonuses on the Street, true. But let’s compare a managing director in high yield sales who earns a bonus of $1.5 million to his leveraged loan counterpart. After chopping 25%, or $375,000, the loan managing director is heading home with a bonus of $1.125 million.

Still not a bad year by any stretch. In fact, it seems like the kind of year where a hefty tax write-off might come in handy. You know, a charitable contribution or two. And may I humbly suggest, Mr. Managing Director, when deciding on a recipient for said contribution that you keep in mind the current decline of the poor media company, or more precisely its ink-stained employees, who, at times like these may wish they’d listened to their parents when they said: English major? You gotta be kiddin’ me.

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