"I'm a 25 year-old associate at an elite boutique on $365k"
Banking bonuses are out, and they are disappointing. Boutique bonuses are also out, and all indications are that they have held up far, far better. While associates in banks are licking their wounds, associates in boutiques are marveling at their continued good fortune.
"I'm a top ranked second year associate," says one 25 year-old at a leading boutique in London. "For the past year, I was paid £295k [$365k]. That was pretty standard. Most people I know here got a 100% bonus."
He's not alone in his ebullience. While banks like Goldman Sachs have been cutting juniors and reducing compensation to a small proportion of salaries, elite boutiques like Centerview, Perella Weinberg and PJT Partners have been substantially more generous.
"Most boutiques have paid out, promoted people and are not laying off," says Tom Ragland, CEO of the Harrison Rush Group in New York City. This reflects their ongoing appetite for staff. "Independent M&A boutique hiring was up about 30% year-on-year or maybe even more," says Julian Bell at search firm Sheffield Haworth in NYC, of boutique recruitment in 2022.
Boutique bonuses are generous, even after last year's pay rises. At PJT Partners in London, salaries were increased last April, so that associates 1, 2 and 3 now receive £125k, £135k and £150k in fixed pay. Boutique bonuses often elevate total compensation to double this amount. Even when they don't, they're still high: "Most juniors at boutiques are getting 50-70%," says Andy Pringle at search firm Circle Square. This compares to anecdotal stories of bonuses as low as 10% to 25% of salaries at major banks.
Boutiques are supposed to be more grueling places to work than banks. But the 25-year-old associate says his hours aren't appreciably longer than those worked by his friends at the major players. At the same time, he claims his job security is far superior: "We've been told that they would never fire us in the brutal way that banks are doing," he claims. "They're still hiring and still at a far earlier stage of their growth trajectory."
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