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Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon slashes pay for his employees as revenue drops

Key Points
  • The bank cut compensation and benefits set aside for employees in the first quarter by 20% to $3.26 billion, outstripping the decline in companywide revenue.
  • Goldman posted first-quarter revenue that missed analysts' expectations, dropping 13% to $8.81 billion amid a tougher market for trading and investing.
  • The drop in pay helped the bank beat analysts' expectations for profit, however.
David Solomon, Goldman Sachs
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Being a Goldman Sachs trader or banker is about to get less lucrative.

The bank cut compensation and benefits set aside for employees in the first quarter by 20% to $3.26 billion, or about $90,780 for each of the bank's 35,900 workers. A year ago, that figure was $119,323 for each of the bank's 34,000 workers.

That's Goldman's estimate of its employees' share of revenue for just the first three months of the year, meaning that the bank will set aside more in pay as 2019 progresses. For senior traders and investment bankers, most compensation comes in the form of year-end bonuses paid early next year.

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Compensation has been sliding on Wall Street ever since post-financial crisis rules crimped risk taking and as automation and electronic trading take over more flows from clients. Under CEO David Solomon, who took over in October, the firm is reevaluating all of its businesses and has already started to pull back resources from parts of underperforming areas like commodities trading. 

Goldman posted first-quarter revenue that missed analysts' expectations, dropping 13% to $8.81 billion amid a tougher market for the trading and investing businesses.

But it beat analysts' expectations for profit, posting an 18% drop to $5.71 a share, the New York-based firm said in a release, higher than the $4.89 estimate.

The lion's share of that beat came from setting aside less for pay than analysts had expected, which might just be a "pull forward" of what the bank would do later in the year, according to Citigroup analysts led by Keith Horowitz.

The first question analysts had on Monday for management was about compensation. While CFO Stephen Scherr said there was no shift in compensation policy, he encouraged analysts to look at the bank's overall expenses rather than just pay.

That's because Goldman is investing in new platforms in corporate and consumer businesses, meaning that more dollars will be shifted into technology rather than human labor.

Goldman shares dropped 3.4 percent at 2:43 p.m. in New York trading.