That didn't last long. After a brief glimmer of profitability in 2016/2017, Nomura's European and American businesses were loss-making again in the year to March 2018. This might be why, as the Japanese bank announces its bonuses, some people in London appear to be disappointed.
Last year, Nomura made a loss of ¥14.7bn ($133m) in Europe, and a loss of ¥8bn ($72m) in the Americas. In both locations the bank is predominantly involved in wholesale activities - investment banking and sales and trading.
Nomura declined to comment on its bonuses, but we understand they were paid late last week. Their reception was mixed. Senior M&A bankers in London appear to have been disappointed, along with many of the bank's fixed income professionals. Some junior M&A bankers tell us they were very happy indeed.
After the bank pulled out of European equities sales and trading in 2016, Nomura's markets business is disproportionately skewed towards fixed income. Revenues in Nomura's fixed income sales and trading business globally fell 14% in the year to March, while top-performing banks like Citi and Bank of America achieved less substantial declines of 6% in the year to January. Even so, Nomura engaged in some expensive fixed income recruitment last year, hiring-in the likes of Gokhan Buyuksarac, a top Goldman Sachs emerging markets trader in April, Fred Jallot, the former head of EMEA trading and structuring at Citi (as its EMEA head of global markets) in July, and Omar Ghalloudi, the former head of investment grade credit trading at Citi in November.
These hires might be why - after years of cutting - Nomura's European business ended the year with 3,057 staff; 31 more than it began. 31 people isn't exactly breaking the bank, except that many were big name traders. The suspicion is that they occupied a chunk of money that might otherwise have been used to pay everyone else.
Elsewhere, Nomura added nearly 50 people in the Americas. They included senior M&A bankers and Meraj Khan, the former head of emerging markets macro trading for Europe at UBS, who joined in New York. We don't know how Nomura's U.S. investment bankers feel about their bonuses but seniors in London are said not to be happy. "It was a disaster at the top end," says one M&A headhunter, who asked not to be quoted. Conversely, some of Nomura's high-performing IBD juniors say they were very happy with their pay. "My bonus was well above average," says one, "I'd say I'm a 10 in terms of satisfaction."
Despite last year's losses, there's little sign yet that Nomura is pulling back from recruitment in 2018. The Japanese bank recently hired Dan Cohen, the ex-head of high yield trading at HSBC, to head its own high yield division. When things go well at Nomura, the bank has a reputation for generosity. Staff there need to hope that the new senior trading team will pull things around in time for bonuses in twelve months' time.