As this year's compensation round approaches, one thing is clearly true: the overall trend in compensation is DOWN. At the same time, the lifestyle most certainly hasn't improved. If anything it's got worse. Added to this is the fact that bankers are viewed as society's villains. We're on a par with cowboy builders, estate agents and ambulance chasers.
Despite this, most of the people I see leaving their roles are going elsewhere in the industry - not getting out entirely. Meanwhile, the volume of talent queuing up to enter the industry remains incredibly high.
Well, despite the declines, compensation levels in banking still remain far higher than any other industry.
So are people only in this for the money?
Day to day, there is no question that money is a big factor. Most people in sales, trading or corporate finance make continuous calculations on what their compensation will look like at year end given their revenue production. If you ask them what their production is, they will know the answer to the last minute with unerring accuracy.
However, if I look at the really senior guys, who have made more money than any reasonable person could want, they seem to be motivated by other factors, whether it be sheer enjoyment of their job, or the power and prestige that goes along with their seniority. If it were really all about money, are they really that greedy to want to stay?
Personally, I haven't gone for maximum compensation, because I didn't want to live with the lifestyle consequences. However, the fact that I'm working in banking at all is definitely down to the pay.
I am pretty sure if compensation were completely taken out of the equation then I would prefer to join a regular corporate. I also like to think I will get out at some point and have a 'second career,' but perhaps I am deluding myself; inertia is a powerful force.