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Getting that great bonus

12/12/14

The way bonuses are allocated in the financial sector is changing, but employees can still do much to boost their own cause.

Bonuses may be controversial in the financial sector, but professionals who have worked hard for them and delivered good results may have very good reasons to feel they deserve the appropriate reward - and unhappy if they are denied it.

Of course, the world is not always fair and many people will not get a bonus at all in their own work - deserved or otherwise. This includes accountants and those in financial services, while those that are issued will vary in size.

So, is there anything staff can do about this? A survey by eFinancialCareers has found the situation is complex and uncertain, but there are many professionals who believe there is much people can do to help themselves.

The first complicating factor is the new legislation from Europe capping bonuses, despite the opposition of the UK government. This may mean the end of the kind of huge bonuses that many decision makers want to stamp out, but overall remuneration may not fall at all - it will simply transfer into higher basic salaries. Even so, there will still be bonuses - but not for all.

Speaking to the current and former bankers, the site found a range of views on how professionals can help their cases. 

One way to do this is to consider this anything but a personal effort, according to a US equities trader, who said the age of bonuses based on individual performance is past. instead, it is all about teams gaining extra rewards. "There’s no way you can maximise your bonus as an individual now - and if you try to, it won’t be sustainable,”  he said.

Timing is an issue for others, who have suggested not leaving it too late to ask, trying to time some big achievements for the second part of the year and even paying a visit to the head office in the third quarter.

Of course, for some the big temptation is to threaten to take their services elsewhere. However, a former managing director warned that while it may have been likely to work in the past, it is a dangerous strategy to take now. Some employers might be happy to lose the cost of another manager.

He remarked: “Threatening to quit is a very high risk strategy. It works if you’re a very strong performer, but it can backfire if you’re not.”

Overall, bonuses in the UK have been low. The latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) data has shown that in the year to September 2014, pay including bonuses only rose by one per cent, compared with a 1.3 per cent increase when bonuses are discounted.

However, the proportion varies between professions. An earlier ONS report found that in the year to April 2014, six per cent of all pay was made up of bonuses, but in the financial and insurance sector it was over 24 per cent, the highest since 2007, when it soared to 33 per cent.

So it may be that getting a huge bonus is now out of the question - but that does not mean simply having to accept making do without.

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