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The highest paying jobs in banking and financial services

Working in finance isn't just about the money.

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It mostly is, though. It's hard to convince people to sign up for the grueling working hours otherwise. But not everyone who works in a bank, paradoxically, is a banker - and there's not a lot of overlap in the role & responsibilities between a banker and the vast number of non-bankers employed on a different floor.

Our 2024 salary and bonus report, which will go live this Friday, can provide an answer to who's making the most money, however. We had over 6,000 respondents to our survey, from every major financial institution (including banks, private equity firms, and hedge funds) in every major financial center (including New York, London, Hong Kong, and Singapore).

So, which are the highest salaries in banking and finance and where can you get the highest bonuses and total compensation? The chart below is based on our report. (We're still having problems displaying charts on mobile, so please view this on a desktop for the moment). 

1. Hedge Funds jobs are the highest paying - $487k

Hedge funds were the biggest payers that we polled. They pay average salaries of “just” $221k per person, and average bonuses of $257k, making total compensation of $487k. This shouldn’t be surprising – hedge fund jobs are known to be some of finance’s most lucrative. Although hedge fund jobs encompass a lot of “typical” roles, such as operations and compliance, they also employ highly paid portfolio managers and analysts who help identify investment opportunities. 

2. Macro sales and trading jobs pay an average of $485k

It's macro sales and trading jobs that pay the most in banks, with average salaries of $263k and average bonuses (in 2023) of $222k. Macro traders include traders working on foreign exchange desks and interest rate trading desks and related derivative products. They're trading around macro economic trends, rather than the micro economic trends that influence credit products. They’re the people that try to anticipate major economic changes, such as interest rate changes, freak elections, or Brexit, to make a buck.

3. Equities sales and trading jobs pay an average of $401k

Equity sales and trading people earned average salaries of $223k and average bonuses of $178k – again, a slight decrease on the year before. Equities traders include traders making markets on company shares that are publicly traded on registered exchanges such as the NYSE, LSE, or HKEX (in New York, London, and Hong Kong respectively), and traders working on related derivatives products. 

4. Credit sales and trading jobs pay an average of $394k

Credit sales and trading people, on top of average salaries of $206k, enjoyed average bonuses in $189k. Credit traders trade bonds issued by companies, which can be either high yield or investment grade. They also trade the related derivative products.  

5. M&A jobs pay an average of $378k 

Despite a slight decrease in bonus year on year, M&A bankers enjoyed the highest salaries ($206k, on average) and bonuses ($172k) in investment banking, a category that comprises them and capital markets. M&A bankers, as the name implies, assist companies in acquiring or merging with other companies. This involves valuing acquisition targets to ascertain both compatibility and to produce accurate acquisition valuations. At higher levels, M&A bankers approach companies to suggest M&A targets, bringing business to the bank.

6. Commodities sales and trading jobs pay an average of $369k

The lowest earning sales and trading people were in commodities. All in all, it’s not a bad place on the totem pole to be: average salaries were $177k per head, whilst average bonuses in 2023 were a monumental $192k, the second-highest number we polled. Commodities are the people who sit on banks sales and trading floors, or in hedge funds and commodities trading houses, and who trade commodities - products like oil, grains, or pork bellies.

7. Equity Research jobs pay an average of $353k

Equity researchers are professionals that value existing, publicly traded, companies. These valuations lead them to issue target prices for that company’s stock, which are essentially the “correct” prices for a stock, given economic and financial forecasting. For the privilege of foresight, they earned a healthy $218k in salary, on average, and a proportionally low $135k on average in bonuses in 2023. 

8. Debt capital markets jobs pay an average of $343k

Debt Capital Markets (DCM) bankers earned $204k in salary on average, and $140k in bonuses. DCM bankers work on valuing and issuing debt instruments such as bonds to public markets, also known as capital markets, to raise money for the businesses, governments, or other institutions (such as Oxford University, believe it or not) seeking to raise capital. At higher levels, DCM bankers approach companies to suggest DCM issuances, bringing business to the bank.

9. Asset management jobs pay an average of $313k

Asset management firms also pay generously. Average salaries in asset management were $182k and average bonuses were $131k. Asset Managers are portfolio managers who invest huge sums of money for pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, and retail investors into a wide variety of asset classes – including public equities and bonds. Unlike hedge fund managers who seek to benefit in any market, they typically invest in the expectation that the price of the asset their investing in will rise. 

10. Equity capital markets jobs pay an average of $312k

Lagging behind their compatriots in capital markets, cousins in investment banking, and tribe in front office revenue-generating roles were the professionals in Equity Capital Markets (ECM), who earned average salaries of $209k and average bonuses of $103k – not bad for a poor relation. ECM bankers work on valuing and issuing equities to public markets, which are also known as capital markets. At higher levels, ECM bankers approach companies to suggest ECM issuances, bringing business to the bank.

11. Quant jobs pay an average of $296k

Quants earn $178k in salary on average, higher than some revenue-generating roles. They also earn $108k bonuses on average. Short for “quantitative”, this refers to specialist mathematicians that create (ideally, profitable) trading strategies for banks. There are also quants in non-revenue-generating roles that design risk management systems, among other things.

12. Risk jobs pay an average of $276k

Risk professionals earned $173k salaries and $98k bonuses, on average, in our survey. There are all kinds of different risk jobs in banking, including market risk, credit risk, counterparty risk and operational risk. Despite risk management jobs seemingly more important in the chaos of 2023, their average bonuses have actually gone down by more than 10% compared to 2022.

13. Private equity jobs pay an average of $263k

Despite private equity firms not having a good 2023, their “regular” compensation did not suffer much. Average salaries of $156k and average bonuses of $107k put them outside of usually-comparable revenue-generating compensation ranges, but it was the hidden behemoth of carried interest (which we didn’t poll for) that likely carried the brunt of 2023’s misery. Private equity firms are “alternative investors” that invest in private companies as opposed to public ones: this often involves an investment into those companies as well as active management of them to increase value.

14. Finance jobs pay an average of $230k

A bank’s finance team is very similar to the finance team at a non-financial business: it deals with accounting, payroll, taxes, revenue projection, audit, and that sort of thing. And for the privilege of being the financier’s financier, they earn $141k in salary, on average, and $90k in bonuses.

15. Technology jobs pay an average of $230k

Bonuses for software developers in banks are comparatively small, at 'just' $57k. Salaries are stronger at an average of $153k. A bank's technology team is a broad-ranging group, encompassing every technologist from IT support services that make sure a revenue-generating computer turns on, to high-level cybersecurity personnel. It can also include research and development roles that study cutting-edge technology, such as AI or quantum computing.

16. Compliance jobs pay an average of $198k

Compliance bonuses are also comparatively small at $62k. A healthy $136k average salary, however, might make up for it. A bank’s compliance team makes sure that their colleagues, both in revenue-generating and supporting roles, don’t break the law or any other relevant regulations. As well as monitoring transactions and communications, they als provide advice and training to bank employees. 

17. Operations jobs pay an average of $180k

Despite a healthy bonus uplift of 16% to $59k, operations personnel reported the lowest compensation packages in banking & financial services, mostly on account of their $121k average salaries – the lowest in our report. A bank’s operations team does all background work for revenue-generating roles. That means settling trades, for example. If a bank agrees to lend $100m to a major client, the operations people are the ones that make sure money from pot “A” goes into pot “B”.

If you're a student interested in working in any of the above sectors & industries - check out our career guide for students and graduates.

Our 2024 financial services salary & bonus report will be available for download this Friday on this page.

Have a confidential story, tip, or comment you’d like to share? Contact: +44 7537 182250 (SMS, Whatsapp or voicemail). Telegram: @SarahButcher. Click here to fill in our anonymous form, or email Signal also available.

Bear with us if you leave a comment at the bottom of this article: all our comments are moderated by human beings. Sometimes these humans might be asleep, or away from their desks, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. Eventually it will – unless it’s offensive or libelous (in which case it won’t.)

AUTHORZeno Toulon

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