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Now for the bad news: in their desperation to retain staff, banks in Hong Kong are said to be holding back part of bonus payouts.

"I-bankers can get 50% of their cash now and leave the rest with the bank for up to five years," says Christopher Sykes of Edward W Kelly Partners in Hong Kong.

The move isn't entirely disadvantageous: Sykes says bankers who are prepared to delay their bonus gratification will get an even larger payout as a result. On the other hand, if they leave before the five years are up, they could face some serious penalties.

Sykes says bonuses held back in this way are referred to as 'tapered,' because if the cash element up front is bigger, the cash takeout later on is whittled down. But if the initial cash takeout is smaller, it's an inverted taper - with much more cash coming in later on.

The emergence of taper schemes apparently follows banks' failure to get stars to accept bonus payouts with a large share component.

"Stock and stock options have never been as important in investment banking as they have been in commercial banking. Investment bankers invariably want cash in direct proportion to the business they know they have brought in," says Sykes.

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