Goldman reported Q4 numbers today and they were ugly. While earnings were in line with expectations (bank EPS has become completely irrelevant as the FASB now affords banks with a practically infinite array of options to game the bottom line), the revenues were more difficult to fudge. And now that the firm finally spreads its revenues in the new method which breaks out Prop (and FICC from Equities as part of client flow), we can see just why prop trading is so critical to the firm. The traditional golden goose for the firm: Fixed Income, Currency and Commodities trading on a flow basis was abysmal, plunging from $2,687 million to $1,636 million sequentially, and from $3,129 million in Q4 2009. As the chart below shows, this number peaked at $6,017 million in Q1 2010. Combined, total revenues by all segments came at a five quarter low with FICC posting the lowest contribution since 2009. Yet the one segment which did post an increase was Prop Trading, also known as Investing and Lending, which increased from $1,797 million to $1,988 million. And as we noted previously, the margins in this group are by far the highest, averaging just under 50%, confirming why as Bloomberg noted earlier, attempts to reintegrate prop into Wall Street trading are ramping up big now that Volcker is gone.
The increasing role of prop trading to Goldman's hedge fund operations is seen even better in the chart showing revenue segment as a % of total. It has increased to just under a quarter: the highest number from when we have first disclosed prop trading in Q4 2009:
But the number everyone is waiting for is comp, which was $2,253 million in Q4 (unlike the negative number posted in Q4 2009 when the outcry against banker bonuses was apparently louder). This was a 26.1% comp margin, and brought the year total to $15,376 or a 39.3% margin on total revenues of $39,161. Based on "total staff at period end" of 35,700 this comes to precisely $430,700 per employee. Surely this is admirable compensation for a Fed-backstopped hedge fund job well done.