The one critical error Wall Street analysts have to avoid when they hear their bonus number

Ivan DemidovReuters/Steve MarcusIvan Demidov of Russia makes a face as he plays Peter Eastgate of Denmark during the World Series of Poker at the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada November 11, 2008. Eastgate, 22, defeated Demidov of Russia to win $9.15 million and become the youngest champion of the World Series of Poker main event.

This month, managing directors at investment banks will be letting their junior staff know what they’re getting for their bonus.

For newcomers to bonus seasons, it’s important to never show that you are happy when you hear the number.

“Let’s say I’m a first-year analyst and the bank is going to give me $150,000 bonus. I’m thinking ‘Woo-hoo! I come from an underprivileged background. I can’t believe it!'” a veteran Wall Street trader said.

Don’t do that.

Being happy and smiling is the “worst possible reaction you can have,” he added.

“The best possible reaction is a poker face. Never show emotion.”

One reason this is important is that you don’t want to fall under the “nice person” category, he explained.

“Then next year they’ll think that’s OK so-and-so always gets excited. Just give him $100,000 this year. He was happy with $150,000 last year.”

One challenge banks have is retaining their top-tier talent in analyst classes. That’s because after two years in an analyst program they’ve been groomed for hedge funds and private-equity firms to poach them.

Remaining balanced in your emotions let’s the bank know that they need to pay you very well to keep you at the firm, the trader, who later joined a hedge fund, said.

It’s also important that you don’t come across as ungrateful either.

“Wall Street is a poker game. You don’t show your hand. But nobody wants to play poker with a complete jerk,” another veteran fixed-income trader said.

No matter what the number is, at the end of the meeting, you should always say, “thank you.”

**If you have any insights into bonus season (comp numbers, expected dates, tips, advice, tales of success, excess, or horror stories) feel free to send an email to We’ll be discreet!

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