Following reports that the Paris-based bank was considering disbanding its prop trading unit after notching an abysmal -20% drop in revenues in its trading business last year (adding to a streak of middling-to-poor returns), BBG reported Thursday afternoon that, for the second straight year, SocGen is planning to slash its bonus pool for traders – following in the footsteps of cross-town rival BNP and perennially troubled Deutsche Bank – to reflect the weaker returns.
At first glance, it appears SocGen’s cuts might be deeper than its peers, with BBG reporting that they could be as much as 25%. The final decision on bonuses likely won’t be announced until a few weeks after the bank has reported its results. At the very least, the cuts are expected to be about 10%, putting them on par with Deutsche Bank’s bonus-poll cuts.
The drop in trading revenue, which occurred as traders moved to the sidelines during Q4’s explosion of market volatility, has added to the problems facing SocGen Chief Executive Officer Frederic Oudea as he struggles to deliver on growth targets (like every major bank that has reported Q4 results so far, SocGen blamed “challenging” market conditions for the slump in revenue).
Across town, BNP is expected to lower or eliminate bonuses to many traders in its global markets unit after posting trading losses and shuttering some businesses (including an embarrassing $80 million loss by one seemingly careless prop trader).
Traders in the bank’s credit and rates trading unit could receive “doughnuts” – an industry term for no discretionary comp. This comes as 5 our of 5 Wall Street banks who have reported Q4 earnings reported surprisingly weak results for their FICC trading units. Among US banks, JPM had been expected to dole out the largest bonuses to traders and investment bankers.
The news wraps up a rough quarter for French banks, which are known for their shrewdness when navigating complex derivatives markets. However, they have recently struggled to navigate the current investment climate, with its risks stemming from slowing global growth and the US-instigated trade war. In addition to the troubles at SocGen and BNP, Natixis, another large French bank, said in December it took a 260 million-euro ($296 million) hit from hedging Asian equity derivatives.