Bankers’ compensation should go up by almost five percent in 2011 for several important reasons. Before I go on here, it should be pointed out that not all banking salaries are headed north. There is a segment of banking generically referred to as “retail banking” (which is best described as what goes on when you walk into the local branch of your bank) that will actually decline a bit. The reason for that decline is twofold; a continuing pattern of making many of those jobs part time (and, hence hourly pay with no benefits) and growth of on-line and electronic banking.
What I reference here are salaries pertaining more to the type of banking that is extended to businesses and the professional bankers who handle the financial, lending, credit and investment functions for that part of our economy. The salaries of these professionals are going up!
Elevator going up
First, financial salaries across the board have been in a holding pattern since 2008 and everyone is willing to tighten their belts… for a while…but it will be hard to keep bankers’ belts tight when banks are scoring higher profits: According to FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair recently “the majority of banks are faring well and about 63% of institutions reported improvements in their net income”. In short, there is a positive expectancy that goes something like “the bank is doing better so I should be too”.
Baby Boomers going down
Second, few economists seem to be taking note of the fact that Americans are retiring at an increasing rate; the boomers are dropping out. The Social Security Administration reports that by 2015, the age 65 group of Americans will be our fastest growing segment.
“Wait a minute”, you say, ” I have been reading about baby boomers hanging in there beyond age 65″. I read the same articles and can’t find a lot of hard facts but I do find a lot of supposition based on two premises; first, that Americans are living longer and second, that they are poorer now than they were a few years ago and, hence, will continue to soldier on to rebuild their savings, etc. It may be that people in a certain income class have to work at their existing jobs longer but that may have always been the case. And, just because you are going to live longer, does that mean you want to work longer?
At any rate, I find, in the executive search work we do with banks, that the skilled professionals are departing their jobs at a rate faster than can be replaced and, hence, banks will have to pay more to keep the ones they do have. When the supply goes down, the price goes up… I think that’s what we were all taught in Economics 101.
Jobs becoming more technical and/or complicated
About fifteen years ago, I recall attending a symposium on the American economy and listening to a very well known economist tell the audience that there will be a “tremendous dumbing down of jobs” in the finance sector; that is, his view was that jobs will be made simpler. The theory was that computers would take over more and more of the decision making. My answer is nope, ain’t seen it yet! How about you… is your job easier/simpler that it was, say, even five years ago? Ask the average Chief Credit Officer if his job is easier today than it was five years ago and he will laugh you out of his office.
Let’s take a look at what many feel is the least technical job in commercial banking, the business development lending officer. This is the person who goes out and brings in new business loans to the bank. Not to insult anyone here; this is a tremendously important job in that business loans are the economic heart (or at least liver!) for all banks but the skills needed have probably remained unchanged in the last century. Yet, a recent interview with a VP of Commercial Lending went something like this: “My bank just installed its second prospecting management system in three years and I was still trying to learn the first one.” “We also have been attending seminars on our new portfolio risk assessment reporting system to keep ahead of the FDIC and, once it is up and running, I will be spending about a half day a week writing exception explanations on my accounts.” “I still can’t connect our email system to my cell phone and, hopefully, the IT guy will come over this week to help me”. “We’re short two credit analysts in our group because the bank dropped its credit training program a while ago so we all have to do our own credit write-ups now and this is much harder now than in the old days when we didn’t have to do an environmental impact report.” And so it goes. The computer making things simpler? I don’t really think so.
Mortgage banking yawning (if not waking up!)
Everyone knows about the great mortgage banking genocide that has taken place over the last few years. Underwriters, funders, shippers, securitization analysts, originators and the like have been swept from the face of the earth. At the same time, a mountain of new restrictions, laws and regulations have been dumped onto the backs of the remaining workers Right now the mortgage market is somnolent but with a few waking yawns here and there across the country. When it wakes up again (and it will!), the tremendous sucking sound you will hear will be commercial bankers pulled over into the mortgage sector. Historically, when mortgage banking begins to pull people from the commercial banks, the magnet is higher salaries. As this begins to occur, watch for higher economic retention incentives and counter offers to raise the ante for our friends in commercial banking.
Ok, so why five percent?
Five percent is a nice round number and human resource people (and economists) like the pretense of precision… so they will say something like 3.7 percent but, remember, no one ever audits their numbers after the fact. There is a lot of negotiating savvy in quoting a low percent increase and then offering you something over and above the average. The ultra simple logic of five percent goes something like this; two percent covering the ice age of 2008- 2010 and three percent for 2011. Is it enough? I am not sure but one thing you can count on is that salaries are going up!