Surprising as it may seem to those who are carrying on about the compensation programs for senior executives on Wall Street, money isn't the key motivator for most people. Career Strategies has used the same assessment instrument to determine the motivators for our clients for over fifteen years. How people answer has been pretty consistent through good times and bad.
For most people, money is not a big motivator. Even for people out of work. Even for people who work in financial services. What does motivate people is: doing a good job and being recognized for it, making a difference by their work, and learning and growing.
In our experience, people start focusing on pay issues when there is something else going on, like a micromanaging boss, an abusive culture at work, or obvious unfairness. Then people feel they "deserve" more money to make up for what they put up with.
Senior financial services people have certainly been kicked around in the media for the last year. They might be feeling that they really deserve the money as a payback or as a sign that the crisis is over. My guess is that even for these financial services executives, money is really a measure of how well they are doing in relation to their peers. It's not the money itself; it's competing and winning.
It this is true, it's a good thing. If executives are motivated by winning not money, maybe we could dial back executive compensation so it looks a little more like executive compensation in Europe. In Europe, they don't seem to have any trouble filling executive positions with good people, in spite of their different pay structure. And there would be far less wrath directed against executives and regulation of their pay in the United States.