Few in finance are happy in their jobs, survey finds

Wall Street

A Wall Street address carved into the side of a building in New York. A new survey finds widespread job dissatisfaction in the finance industry.

(Mark Lennihan / Associated Press)

At least half of those working in finance are unhappy in their job, and half even at the highest levels said either their pay didn’t meet their expectations or they weren’t paid fairly, a new survey found.

The survey and follow-up interviews by the Options Group, a New York-based executive search and consulting firm, found that only 20% of respondents were satisfied with all four key aspects of their working life: their job, the firm they worked for, their pay and their prospects. Thirty percent were happy with two of the four factors. Fifty percent were happy with none of the factors.

“It’s time to move to other industries,” an unnamed sales executive at a European bank is quoted in the survey. “Banks are not dealing well with change and it will take a change of mindset for business to thrive.”

The findings reflect anecdotal impressions of analysts and others of widespread job dissatisfaction on Wall Street and the wider financial-services industry in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008, which saw a pullback in industry profits and compensation and tighter regulation imposed by the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law and other measures.


Jessica Lee, an Options Group director, said the survey found that other factors besides pay -- career prospects, the people with whom the respondent worked, etc. -- were equally important in determining job satisfaction, particularly when pay was below market.

“Those other things are really important,” she said. “If they’re not in line, and on top of that, the money’s not there, then you’re out the door.”

In one of the more surprising findings, only half at the top levels of financial firms, either at the executive or partner level, agreed that their pay and bonus both met their expectations and was fair.  

The dissatisfaction at the top was amplified further down the hierarchy. Only 39% of those with six to eight years’ experience agreed that their compensation was both fair and was what they expected. Only 26% of those who do not receive bonuses as part of their compensation agreed their pay was fair.


Among the most satisfied with their compensation, the survey found, were “front office” employees -- executives, traders, analysts, salespeople, investment bankers and the like -- at insurance companies, where 78% agreed that their compensation met expectations and was fair.  “Non-front office” employees -- compliance officers, risk managers, human resources personnel -- were less satisfied.  Only 5% of back office employees at hedge funds agreed their compensation was fair and in line with expectations.

Despite the job satisfaction findings, more respondents reported that pay had increased than decreased. Among hedge-fund employees, for instance, 21% reported that their compensation had increased 30% or more in the last year, while only 9% reported their compensation had decreased 30% or more.

Data about compensation trends were captured in an electronic survey of finance industry professionals that was conducted between Jan. 29 and March 9 and received 3,100 responses.

Twitter: @deanstarkman


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