11/7/17

I work at a small debt/corp fin boutique, been here c2 years. We've had quite a good year, closed several transactions (where I was instrumental to the execution process, 2 deals I largely ran on my own) that brought in a decent amount of fees. We've got a solid pipeline that we're working on that include transactions with quite high execution certainty, and some riskier ones but that could bring in very high fees. Point being, I don't think we're struggling.

I've built up I think quite solid expertise in a few areas and have become the firm's go to person for these things. Not going to pretend I've been perfect, but if had truly underperformed I'd have been fired a long time ago (our CEO doesn't shy away from getting rid of people).

Recently we had our annual compensation reviews. I was going in hoping for something decent. Maybe not quite market rate (everyone has always said our firm pays below market) but at least something to compensate me for what I have contributed, something to justify those long evenings spent in the office and missing out on dates/gym/watching movies/seeing friends/life in general. The hope of a bonus is what kept me going when times were darkest.

I got nothing. Zero. Zilch. Nil. And pay rise was basically inflationary. When I asked the CEO (also the owner of the firm, he decides all pay) why this outcome, he gave some half hearted response about me improving. When I asked specifically what he thought I should improve on, he shrugged his shoulders and said he didn't know and I should ask some other people. He then went on to prove that he had almost no idea what I do at the firm, as well as how I'm doing it per what he had said earlier. As far as I can tell, my pay has been based on whether he likes my face or some other arbitrary factor like that.

Spoke to a few other people who had their reviews and there were tales of bizarre explanations and outcomes all around. A guy at roughly my level he gave the utmost praise to.....and then gave him a month's salary for a bonus even though he's been there for 1.5 years.

Basically I'm feeling like the last 2 years of my career (and life), though great from an experience perspective, have been pretty much a writeoff financially. I work some of the longest hours in the firm (because I'm an expert on several things, I get a lot of workload pushed to me), and it was the hope of a bonus and pay rise that got me through those long evenings in the office where I chose to stay and get another thing off my to-do list as opposed to go home and push it into the next day. But it's clear all that was for nothing, I feel so empty inside. Lied to, cheated out of market standard compensation, received broken promises.

I really should have seen this coming, because last year had the same result: /forums/no-bonuspay...
In fact I'm feeling like an idiot for sticking around after last year's review. Well no more, got a second (and potentially final) round interview with a different firm coming up very soon that should provide a decent salary boost. I can't wait to walk into the CEO's office and tell him I'm resigning. I wonder what the MDs I'm working with and who depend on my input so much will think once they find out I'm going.

Comments (21)

11/5/17

Didnt read all of your story, sorry.

But I was stuck in a similar situation. Looked for a gig with much better pay for my experience and left. Much happier now. Money matters.

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11/5/17

Damn man, must be tough being in that situation, and can fully sympathize with what you've gone through.

However, it's great that you've already taken strides to move on from that place. Keep networking like crazy with people outside your firm and alumni to move to a bigger firm, just in case that last round interview falls. On top of that, don't beat yourself up too much. You have IB deal experience on your CV, and by the sound of things, will have lots to talk about in your upcoming interviews.

Keep us updated with what happens!

Sidere mens eadem mutato

11/6/17

Feel your pain, that sucks.

Think to remember is sometimes it takes two jumps to get the industry/job and the pay you want. Employers know this, and as great a job you think you did, the CEO knows there are plenty of people willing to do the same for that pay just to get their foot in the door.

At the end of they day, most of us are working to get paid, and want to get as much as possible. It's a certain novelty to breaking in, but once that wears off you want it's about getting the most money you can.

Kinda like if an NBA team signed you a deal where you can be on the team for as long as you want for $5 a season. It would be fun for a season or two, but after that you would probably be looking for more $$$ doing something else.

11/6/17

Yes absolutely, I know that although skilled I am not unique and they definitely can find someone to replace me (even if it comes at the cost of time and recruitment fees). I almost feel like it's the CEO's business model to just replace people with cheaper alternatives once those who think they can do better leave.

11/7/17

That's okay though, as long as you both understand the circumstances. The company gets cheap labor and you get experience. Now it's just on you to parlay that experience into a better deal.

That happens in a lot of fields as well. For example, some actors take less money just to do a certain movie or work with a certain director. Johan Hill did that for Wolf of Wall Street. I don't know his going fee, but I imagine it's a couple million or so; but he took $60k salary to work with Martin Scorsese.

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11/6/17

Clear as day, you should be planning your exit yesterday

11/6/17

If they really valued you, then they wouldn't have treated you the way they did.

Been in a similar situation but didn't let it go on that long. They gave me inflationary raise and next to nothing bonus. They said I was lucky to get what I got considering my age. Total bs because I was killing it and everyone else around me knew it. They went to the point to bring in my manager and get him to say I was lucky too. At that point, I knew they didn't value me. Instead of being frustrated over it, I channeled that energy into something positive/productive and found a new role within two weeks.

Funny part was when I gave my two week notice two weeks later, their whole story shifted and they were begging me to stay. They asked for a number to stay and I said 50% higher than what I was making just to see if they would even try to bargain. That was the end of that conversation lol.

11/6/17

Oh yeah that's complete bs, telling you that you're lucky to have the job is just an excuse for weaseling themselves out of a pay rise. One would think that if they didn't actually need you, they'd just let you go but if they took the effort to tell you why you need this job, it means they clearly needed you as well.

11/6/17

Exactly they were just being cheap. It's funny because when I started, I wrote code to automate my daily job into 10 minutes tops. I spent a week just writing VBA that controlled everything and had 100% accuracy.
They never knew anything about me writing code other than when I wrote something for someone else. In 20 minutes, I wrote code for their month end process that reduced it from 8 hours down to 5 minutes.
Everyone was raving about it and raving about how efficient I was. A mid level person was retiring and they said I could take on their work. This was perfect since I wanted to justify getting way more money and I had plenty of free time.
Long story short, they gave me what I said in the earlier post and the bs excuses to go along with it. The best part was that I was doing two peoples jobs while my two other colleagues did their own role. When I left, they both took one of my roles and said it's been awful ever since.
Both of them were employees that were there for 10 years with no backbone and would always complain how they wanted to get out. I wasn't going to be one of them. I was going to set an example. I toned it back, worked only 9-5, and focused that pissed off energy into landing a new role.
Don't worry, you got it.

11/6/17

Find a better opp elsewhere and tell this firm to shove it. Best of luck.

26 Broadway
where's your sense of humor?

11/6/17

Oh I can't wait to tell the CEO I'm resigning, want to ask him if he's surprised at my decision just to see how in touch with reality he is.

11/6/17

You would be an idiot to just accept this. Take your foot of the gas. Pull back on the effort and start prepping for interviews elsewhere. Take the skills that you've developed there and find a shop that will recognize your effort. I was in a similar boat early on my career. Moving on when my effort wasn't noticed was the best move I've ever made.

"Elections are a futures market for stolen property"

11/6/17

Already on my way, got a final round interview already and just 2 weeks after I found out about the outcome of my review. Plus a number of other ongoing applications.

Best Response
11/6/17

I feel like I see this in each job and office I go to- people complaining about the pay, but not really doing anything about it.

Basic economics here: You are only worth what someone is willing to pay you. If you think you are worth more, prove it. Find someone who is willing to pay you that much.

Not so basic economics: Everyone is "paid" what they are worth, but sometimes, part of that "pay" is comfort and predictability. When you are in a $50k job, but could get paid $70k if you stepped out of your comfort zone and moved across the country, you are effectively telling yourself that you are willing to take a $20k pay cut to NOT step out of your comfort zone. Your current job is paying you $50k in real dollars, and $20k in fake, "comfort zone" dollars. If they started paying you less real dollars, maybe your comfort zone would get so expensive that you would be willing to go somewhere else.

I was just talking to a co-worker last week who was bitching about the fact that he's been in the same cubicle for 12 years, and that other people advance in their career and he doesn't, and that he's older and more experienced than his managers but never gets promoted. But in the same breath, he talks about how our company is the only big employer in the city and blah blah blah. Isn't willing to move. Well guess what? The company is saving boat loads on his labor because he isn't willing to leave.

Comfort zones have a cost- it's up to you to determine how much you are going to let it cost you. Are you worth more than your salary? Prove it.

11/6/17

Absolutely agreed with you. It is indeed a case of me having gotten too settled into this role as I should have picked up on this after my last compensation review when I also got nothing. Your explanation of comfort pay I identify with and I can see how I fell into that trap.

11/7/17

You absolutely should focus on leaving. Also if you're being screwed on comp absolutely do not reveal that to potential employers when they ask you what you're currently making. As new employer will absolutely use your current shitty comp to low ball you. I've found a good response to the question of what you're making is "I'm targeting $x", (x being a market rate) or "it would take x for this to make sense". Otherwise you could potentially be looking at a still below market offer with the justification of "well it's more than you make now"

11/8/17

Not necessarily. If the OP is in NYC, then he might be safe. Interviewers are no longer allowed to ask about a candidate's salary history during a job interview

11/7/17

I think with your years of zealous hard work you should be rewarded with at least a 51% stake in the company.

11/24/17

Success!

Thought I'd post a happy ending update to my situation. Just 3 weeks after the insulting compensation discussion, I signed my contract with another firm and handed in my notice. Found something quite interesting that gave me a decent boost in base and combined with the median bonus expectation, should double my income from current levels. And I won't be working for a psychopath of a CEO any more.

When I went to tell the CEO that I'm leaving, he seemed to have been almost expecting it- he guessed right away that it was because of the compensation. No attempt at a counter offer, he seemed to not care at all I was going. Of course if he doesn't know what I do and hasn't bothered to find out, then it's no wonder that he doesn't care.

When I told my coworkers (mostly people a bit more junior than me), then everyone congratulated me and a few discreetly confessed that they're also looking to make the jump. Some people had already guessed my departure, as I used to be the person who was always in very early, left quite late and took minimal breaks (hopefully a testament to the fact that I worked hard). Once that pattern changed, they knew something was up.

Although generally the leaving discussion with the CEO was amicable, he did leave me with one final 'screw you': I asked if I could take the last few days before the end of my contractual notice period off as holiday (need to do some handover stuff at my new role but have also got plane tickets for the holidays to go home). Due to the time of year, these would have been days in the week before Christmas, i.e a time when most of the finance world has already taken off for the holidays so not a productive time anyway. However instead of saving the company some money by having a completely demotivated employee take off during a period when minimal work is being done anyway, he instead laughed and said no.

I am so happy to leave this crazy place, I feel so free and alive. And I just can't wait to start my new exciting role.

11/24/17

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11/25/17