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CHICAGO-Executive compensation has been affected by the floundering economy and credit crunch, creating a somber mood, according to the latest Global Business Update from FPL Advisory Group, based here. Recruiting has remained healthy, but the group’s co-chairman and co-CEO William Ferguson is not optimistic that things will improve by the end of 2008.

The company releases the Global Business Update twice a year and has done so for about the past 10 years, Ferguson says. The firm bases the findings on surveys it conducts throughout the year as well as what the firm has witnessed.

Bonuses at the beginning of the year remained sound, as they were based on performance in 2007, Ferguson says. However, bonuses at the end of this year or beginning of next year are expected to be significantly less, unless the economy quickly and drastically improves.

“As bonus time comes upon us, there is going to be a much more conservative view because of the much-lower level of activity in the market,” says Tony LoPinto, CEO of Equinox Partners and columnist for GlobeSt.com, who was not involved in the report. LoPinto, however, does not agree with the “somber” designation for compensation. “I see it as clearly a much more conservative and cautious approach to compensation,” he says. Salary increases have been largely capped at about 4%, according to the report. LoPinto believes salary increases will continue to remain “conservative…mainly dealing with it as an inflation adjustment.”

Companies are placing more emphasis on corporate strategy and maximizing efficiency, Ferguson says. Recruitment, “at least in the states, has remained consistent with 2007,” he says. Recruiting remains strong especially for positions such as asset and property managers and, on the debt side, for restructuring and working out loans, Ferguson says.

Recruitment is also strong for overseas, where real estate firms are expanding, according to the report. “We have seen a steady level of recruitment activity,” LoPinto says. “Companies are positioning themselves for opportunities going forward.” There has also been “opportunistic hires,” he says. “In today’s environment, there is some talent out there that was not available a year ago.”

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