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Wall Street bonuses are on the rise, thanks to the Trump stock market

  • Wall Street compensation is on track to rise 3.8 percent this year, suggesting that the average bonus of $138,210 could rise to $143,462.
  • First-half profits in 2017 have totaled $12.3 billion, a 32 percent jump from the same period in 2016.
  • The average Street salary fell to $375,300 in 2016, a decline of 3 percent that is part of an overall inflation-adjusted drop of 19 percent since 2007.

Wall Street workers can expect to see higher bonuses this year, and they have the election of President Donald Trump to thank.

After years of job cuts and declining salaries, Wall Street compensation is on track to rise 3.8 percent this year, according to a report from New York state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. That figure coincides with first-half profits in 2017 that have totaled $12.3 billion, a 32 percent jump from the same period in 2016.

DiNapoli said a key trigger in the rise of profits for broker-dealers registered at the New York Stock Exchange has been stock market action. The market has rallied strongly under Trump, with the Dow industrials up more than 30 percent since shortly before the election.

"The strength of the financial markets since the presidential election has contributed to stronger revenue growth," DiNapoli said in a statement. Trading generated $7.4 billion in sales for the first half, a 40 percent annualized jump, even though most of the big Wall Street firms have been reporting significant declines in trading, particularly on their fixed income desks.

"Although the securities industry is smaller today than before the financial crisis, it remains one of New York City's most powerful economic engines," he said. "It also continues to be the nation's preeminent financial center."

For workers, that should translate into a decent bump in salary and bonuses.

The level set aside for compensation suggests that the average bonus of $138,210 could rise to $143,462. DiNapoli won't compile the actual bonus totals until March 2018.

However, if the trend holds true it will make a general reversal in fortune for Wall Street.

The average Street salary fell to $375,300 in 2016, a decline of 3 percent that is part of an overall inflation-adjusted drop of 19 percent since 2007, or just before the financial crisis hit in full force.

In addition to the smaller paychecks, there are a third fewer firms now than before the crisis, down from 200 to 130. Profits in 2016 rose to $17.3 billion, the first increase after three straight drops.

To be sure, Wall Streeters don't make very sympathetic victims: The typical pay is five times higher than the $74,800 the average city worker makes, up from double the ratio in 1981.

The Street has found an administration mostly sympathetic to its needs, with Trump consistently cheerleading the stock market and pledging a rollback in regulations.

DiNapoli cautioned that while the new environment has been positive for Wall Street, it could have unintended consequences.

"The industry has reported solid profits for eight consecutive years despite weak revenue growth, new regulations and the high cost of legal settlements stemming from the financial crisis," he said. "Efforts to weaken reforms enacted in the aftermath of the crisis, if successful, could increase future profitability, but at the expense of the financial system's long-term stability."

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