Now, about that bonus . . .

Amy Scott Dec 28, 2006

BOB MOON: We’ve been hearing a lot over the last few weeks about the record year-end bonuses going to folks on Wall Street. The big investment banks are expected to shower their best and brightest with some $24 billion.

It’s actually a big share of their income, so these can be anxious times for Wall-Streeters. And, as Marketplace’s Amy Scott reports, it turns out stockbrokers and bankers aren’t the only ones keeping track.

AMY SCOTT: Ted Fisher keeps a chart at his Manhattan office. It lists every investment bank in New York, the dates they announce their year-end bonuses, and the dates they actually cut the checks. Fisher isn’t a banker or a Wall Street analyst. He sells custom-tailored clothing.

TED FISHER: I would say it accounts for 35 to 40 percent of my business — those three months which would be late December, January and February.

All over this city, the people who cater to the wealthy salivate this time of year. And this looks to be an especially satisfying season. A year of frenzied deal-making and stock-market gains helped push investment bank profits into record territory.At Morrell wine shop in Midtown, managing director Nikos Antonakeas says newly enriched brokers have been stopping by to start collections, or expand an existing one.

NIKOS ANTONAKEAS: When you have disposable income, you wanna do something that’s enjoyable with it. And one of those things, thankfully, is wine.

Two years ago, Manhattan BMW opened a store two blocks from the New York Stock Exchange to be closer to the action. Paul Simon is sales manager.

PAUL SIMON: We’ve seen about a 17 percent increase in floor traffic over the last month. Mostly we see the traffic in bonus season.

Granted, most of Simon’s customers are wealthy anyway. But he says the size of the bonus might mean the difference between buying a $42,000 3-Series sedan or this $90,000 750LI.

SIMON: You know, there’s just more. There’s more wood. There’s more of everything in here. And of course it’s a V-8 powered, 360-horsepower motor which . . . which accounts for a lot.

SCOTT: It smells like money, don’t you think?

SIMON: It smells good to me.

Some businesses aren’t waiting for the bonus crowd to find them. The owner of a new luxury condo building has been running ads on telephone kiosks in the financial district. They show a young man leaning back in his chair with a satisfied grin. The text reads: “You always tell your clients not to sit on their money. Now about that bonus.”

Dennis Brady is a managing director with the building’s owner, Jack Resnick and Sons.

DENNIS BRADY: Over 50 percent of our buyers to date have been involved in the financial sector. So we felt that was a market that has been responsive to our product, and we would just like to remind them, now that they’re flush with cash, that we’re there.

Brady says the message seems to be working.

BRADY: We had one buyer who had bought a two-bedroom from us before that was probably in the neighborhood of about two million come back and decided he wanted to upgrade to a three-bedroom at close to three million. And we were very happy to accomodate him.

You can’t always tell a bonus spender from just a regular rich guy. Artis Jones manages a Kenjo watch store on Wall Street. He says there are hints.

ARTIS JONES: He has that swagger, you know. He’s leaning to one side, the pocket is heavy. And he has his entourage with him to hold him up. We call them dreamers. And then they finally come in and we make it a reality.

But Jones says he hasn’t seen many of these “dreamers” yet this year.

JONES: Come on in guys, we’re waitin’.

He may have to wait a while. Though many brokers already know what their bonuses will be, they don’t actually get the checks till as late as March.

In New York, I’m Amy Scott for Marketplace.

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