NEW YORK – Goldman Sachs said its fourth-quarter profits fell by 13% from a year earlier, largely due to the bank preparing to pay out hefty pay packages to its well-compensated employees.
It's the latest sign that wages are increasing sharply, particularly on Wall Street. Most of the major banks who have reported their results so far have indicated plans to pay employees more in the upcoming year.
The New York-based investment bank earned a profit of $3.94 billion, or $10.81 a share. That's down from $4.51 billion, or $12.08 a share, in the same period a year earlier. The results missed analysts' expectations, who were looking for on average a profit of $11.80 a share, according to FactSet.
While Goldman was able to grow revenues in the quarter, those gains were more than wiped out by the firm's compensation expenses. The bank set aside $3.25 billion to cover compensation and benefits in the quarter, up 31% from a year earlier.
Goldman typically has high compensation expenses, particularly in the last quarter of the year as the bank prepares to pay out its annual bonuses to its employees. These bonuses can often be multiple times an employee's salary, particularly the firm's best-paid traders and investment bankers.
But rising inflation, as well as rising competition for employees among the investment banks, has pushed wages significantly higher at the banks. Bloomberg News reported late last week that the firm was preparing to pay out special one-time bonuses to keep its most valuable employees.
“It is clear that employees are able to demand significantly higher pay without necessarily having to justify the increase through greater productivity,” said Octavio Marenzi, CEO of consulting firm Opimas LLC, in an email.
Pay at the firm is tied directly into how well the overall company does in the year, and this year was incredibly good for Goldman. The firm made $21.64 billion in profits last year, more than double what it earned in 2020.
Dealmaking and trading remained mostly strong last quarter for the firm, which helped drive profits. Investment banking revenues were 45% higher than they were the prior year. Trading revenues were down a modest 7%.
The firm's return on equity — a measurement of how well a bank performs with the assets it holds — was 23% last year, more than double where it was a year earlier. Banks like Goldman aim for their return on equity to be above 10%.