Wall Street just scrimped, saved and cut its way back to pre-recession levels of profit.
Bank profits jumped to a five-year high in 2011, according to a new report from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. But many who started the year happy Wall Street employees aren't feeling the benefits. As of November, Wall Street firms had laid off more than 200,000 workers, according to Bloomberg, -- at least 25,000 more than the number they laid off in 2009, during the depths of the recession.
To take one industry titan for example. Bank of America announced in September that it would be slashing 30,000 over the next few years in an effort to raise $5 billion per year. In the months after announcement, BofA employees subsequently started flooding rival banks with resumes, according to Reuters.
Wall Street as a whole is finding other ways to cut back. Many big banks cancelled or moved in-house their typically lavish holiday parties last year, The New York Times reported in December.
In addition, they've been slashing pay and bonuses. At Goldman Sachs, bonus day was reportedly a "bloodbath" as some employees found out they wouldn’t be taking home any bonuses at all. Morgan Stanley capped cash bonuses at $125,000 in 2011 and the company's executives received zero cash last year.
But Morgan Stanley's CEO James Gorman says employees shouldn't be complaining about pay and bonus cuts, even as the banks are taking home huge profits.
"If you're really unhappy, just leave. Life's too short," Gorman told Bloomberg TV in January of employees disgruntled by their latest pay checks.
And cutting employee pay isn't the only way banks are looking to maximize profits. Before officials ultimately scrapped it, BofA CEO Brian Moynihan defended his bank's $5 debit card fee in October, saying that the company "has a right to make a profit." Banking industry groups also came to BofA's defense, arguing that new financial reform rules meant that banks would have to start charging for once-free services in order to account for losses in revenue.