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Wall Street bonuses went up in 2013

NEW YORK - The average bonus paid to securities industry employees in New York City grew by 15 percent to $164,530 in 2013, which is the largest average bonus since the 2008 financial crisis, and the third highest on record, according to an estimate released today by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. The bonus estimate includes cash bonuses for the current year, supplemented by compensation deferred from prior years.

“Wall Street navigated through some rough patches last year and had a profitable year in 2013. Securities industry employees took home significantly higher bonuses on average,” DiNapoli said. “Although profits were lower than the prior year, the industry still had a good year in 2013 despite costly legal settlements and higher interest rates. Wall Street continues to demonstrate resilience as it evolves in a changing regulatory environment.”

After record losses during the financial crisis, the securities industry has been profitable for five consecutive years, including the three best years on record. The industry reported profits for the broker/dealer operations of the New York Stock Exchange member firms, the traditional measure of profitability for the securities industry, totaled $16.7 billion in 2013, which is 30 percent less than in 2012 ($23.9 billion) but still strong by historical standards.

The securities industry has undergone a major overhaul since the 2008 financial crisis. Regulatory reforms are changing the way the industry does business by requiring larger reserves, limiting proprietary trading and imposing other changes intended to reduce unnecessary risk and to enhance transparency. In response to compensation reforms, firms now pay a smaller share of bonuses in the current year and a larger share is deferred to future years.

Even though the securities industry has been very profitable in recent years, the number of industry jobs in New York City has not returned to the pre-crisis level. DiNapoli estimates the securities industry employed 165,200 workers in New York City in December 2013, which is 12.6 percent fewer workers than before the financial crisis. After large job losses during the recession, employment in the securities industry in New York City has stabilized.

DiNapoli’s office releases an annual estimate of cash bonuses paid to securities industry employees who work in New York City during the traditional bonus season. Bonuses paid by firms to their employees located outside of New York City (whether in domestic or international locations) are not included. The Comptroller’s estimate is based on personal income tax trends, which do not distinguish between cash bonuses for the current year and compensation deferred from prior years. The estimate does not include stock options or other forms of deferred compensation for which taxes have not been withheld.