Feb 9, 2022 - Economy & Business

Wall street and tech reward big, rare bonuses

A person holding cash

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Everyone’s paying up for loyalty — some way more than others.

Why it matters: Anxious employers across all industries have been boosting salaries and benefits.

Driving the news: Bonus season is underway on Wall Street, with $10 million to $25 million payouts being some of the largest in about a decade.

  • The biggest investment banks — Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America and Citigroup — shelled out $18 billion more last year in compensation than in 2020.
  • Goldman Sachs specifically spent roughly $500 million in special stock bonuses for 400 top ranking executives, the WSJ reports, while the bonus pool for investment bankers at JPMorgan was about 33% higher than in 2020.

It got us thinking — who else has been bumping up bonuses?

  • While not Wall Street big, Big Tech has been catching up.
  • Apple is reportedly paying $180,000 in stock to keep top employees, while Amazon is more than doubling max base pay to $350,000. 
  • Overall, IT and business services (consulting, staffing, marketing, research) workers reported cash bonuses growing 18% and 17% respectively last year, according to data provided to Axios by Glassdoor.
  • Elsewhere, 17% of employers across nearly two dozen sectors reported 2021 holiday bonuses would rise from the prior year, compared to just 7% and 9% of employers in 2020 and 2019. That's according to a study last fall from outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

What they're saying: “These bonuses are idiosyncratic … whereas wage gains [in other areas of the labor market] are a little bit more sustainable and worth highlighting as very positive for workers in the lower end of the income spectrum,” Daniel Zhao, senior economist at Glassdoor, tells Axios. 

The big picture: The size of these paystubs also speak to the way economic inequality has grown over the past two years.

What to watch: When employer generosity might wane.

Go deeper