Nevertheless, there are more deals in the wings. Research by PitchBook found that through the third quarter of 2016, there was a record number of transactions valued at $10 billion or more. During the first nine months of the year, 31 such deals were signed, compared with 23 in all of 2015 and 16 in 2014. If this year’s deals have better luck with regulators, banks could enjoy a payout later this year or next.
Private equity bonuses will be little changed this year, according to the report, as firms were able to increase their assets under management but experienced “mediocre returns.”
Retail and consumer banking was not quite as bleak. There, bonuses could actually gain as much as 5 percent over the previous year. That area of finance has benefited from deposit and loan growth as the economy recovers.
Johnson Associates has been publishing its report annually for about 15 years. The consultants pore through public filings and interview from 30 to 50 clients to produce the results.
Some of the challenges facing banks could soon reverse if interest rates go up meaningfully. With near-zero rates for almost a decade, banks have been able to lend money inexpensively but with lower returns than they received historically. If that dynamic reverses, it could be a boon to the industry, as long as the broader economy remains intact.
“It could be water on the fields for many of these businesses in isolation,” Mr. Johnson said. “Now the caveat is, what happens to the economy when rates go up?”
Economic challenges are the reason European bank employees are worse off than American ones. And Britain’s vote over the summer to leave the European Union, known as “Brexit,” did not help European bank employees’ situation, Mr. Johnson said.
A portion of a banker’s total compensation is based on how well his or her company has been doing in the stock market. The stock prices of some European banks, such as Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse, have declined about 50 percent each over the last year as they have grappled with government fines, increasing competition and greater regulation.
Executives at those banks and others are talking about how to refocus their businesses to become more profitable.
In New York, profit was not an issue. The securities industry generated $9.3 billion in profit during the first half of 2016, the comptroller’s report showed, on track to surpass the $14.3 billion made in all of last year.
But with thousands of job cuts and lower compensation for those in securities, it has become clear that the focus of those profits is primarily preservation, rather than making bankers wealthier.