UBS to raid boutique banks for M&A dealmakers


UBS is planning to pick off disgruntled dealmakers from investment banking boutiques, as the Swiss lender looks to bolster its capabilities in mergers and acquisitions while competitors lay off staff.

The bank has not hired as aggressively as Wall Street rivals in recent years, but it is preparing to lure strong candidates with attractive packages, according to people with knowledge of the plans.

The moves come as big investment banks cut thousands of jobs, reversing several years of strong recruitment and following a tough 12 months for dealmaking.

This week, Morgan Stanley confirmed it had laid off 1,800 staff — more than 2 per cent of its global workforce. Goldman Sachs, meanwhile, started a process of firing more than 3,000 staff last week — though many of those roles were in its lossmaking consumer banking division.

Investment banking fees fell almost 50 per cent at both banks last year after a dearth of mergers and new stock market listings.

UBS’s recruitment also stands in stark contrast to its Zurich rival, Credit Suisse, which is in the process of removing 9,000 roles from its 52,000-strong global workforce.

The Financial Times reported last week that Credit Suisse had begun consultations over cutting 10 per cent of European investment bankers this year.

A person with knowledge of UBS’s plans for its investment bank said the lender would target strong performers from boutique advisory businesses, arguing that talent was stronger at smaller firms than at larger rivals.

The bank would try to lure especially experienced managing directors who believed there was little room for promotion at their current employers and who felt “stuck in a rut”.

UBS would offer generous packages — in line with the market rates at the boutiques — for bankers who delivered results, they added.

Boutique M&A advisory groups — specialist outfits such as PJT Partners, Houlihan Lokey, Evercore, Lazard, Greenhill and Robey Warshaw — have been steadily winning market share from traditional bulge bracket investment banks since the financial crisis.

They have been able to poach staff from traditional investment banks with the promise of larger financial packages.

UBS has pulled back from investment banking over the past decade, instead devoting more resources to its wealth management business.

But senior executives at the bank believe its disciplined approach to expansion in recent years has given it a strong platform to expand while competitors cut back.

This week UBS chief executive Ralph Hamers said the bank was “bucking the trend” when it came to hiring asset and wealth managers.

In a television interview with Bloomberg at Davos, Hamers said the bank was “not in retrenchment mode”, adding: “We are hiring for what we call critical jobs. In Asia-Pacific, in the Middle East, we are hiring absolutely because we have the momentum.”

UBS declined to comment on its plans for hiring in investment banking.



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