Staff Reporter

Competition for jobs is fierce in Southern California’s consolidating banking industry, but that hasn’t stopped the average banking salary from growing by more than 4 percent over the past year.

Those were the findings of a recent report by Russell Stephens Inc., a downtown L.A.-based executive placement firm that surveyed more than 3,000 Southern California financial institutions.

This year’s Stephens survey found that the average salary at Southern California institutions grew 4.04 percent in 1996. That overall increase masked bigger pay raises for certain job categories and smaller raises for others, according to Stephens and other compensation experts.

Specifically, entry-level banking executives saw their compensation grow at a faster rate than their upper-echelon counterparts. Bankers with specialized skills especially in sales and technology saw their pay grow more than generalists.

Those getting some of the lowest pay raises were branch-based generalists, reflecting the industry’s movement away from branch-based banking.

On a broader level, compensation experts also noted that the most recent pay increases for bankers are roughly comparable to those for other industries.

“In terms of salary surveys, we’re seeing general industry salaries up 4 percent. That’s because some groups (such as banking) are recruiting across industries, and employers have to offer comparable salaries,” said David Leach, executive vice president and head of the executive compensation consulting practice at Compensation Resource Group Inc. in Pasadena.

Two of the biggest job groups migrating between banking and other industries and two of the hottest groups in banking these days are people who work in sales and technology, said Carl Miller, managing director of Russell Stephens.

Another major group enjoying healthy pay increases, according to the recent survey, is junior banking employees, Miller added.

He attributed that to a recent scale-back or elimination of in-house training programs at many banks, which has led to a shortage of qualified junior bankers in Southern California.

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