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Raft of senior bankers leave UBS just before bonus payments

UBS hiring traders

When senior investment bankers head for the door at this time of year, the assumption is that their employer is freeing up funds to pay bigger bonuses for those that remain. UBS, like other Swiss banks, doesn’t pay its bonuses until March, but a raft of senior employees have still been heading for the exit in recent weeks.

UBS has been among the more active recruiters of senior investment bankers. In recent weeks and months, the bank has added Ian Carnegie Brown (head of consumer and retail), Michael Hafner (head of oil and gas), Severine Brizay (head of M&A), Martin Henrichs (healthcare), and Melanie Czarra (corporate DCM). Has this influx of ‘grey-haired’ bankers displaced existing senior staff? At least nine people, all of whom are either MDs or heads of department, have departed UBS in the past few weeks according to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) register.

Melissa Earlam, a managing director within UBS’s equity research team who had been at the bank for 17 years, joined Lansdowne Partners; Bill Gallagher, managing director and head of the special situations group at UBS left in December; Andrew Kaufmann, head of foreign exchange and precious metal solutions, has left to start his own firm, Maven Global; Giles Borten, co-head of corporate debt capital markets and Mike de Vegvar, a managing director in equity derivatives trading and head of investor solutions trading, have left as well.

Other senior employees have also moved on. Alex Wright, head of emerging markets telecoms research, departed earlier this month; Jon Drage, an executive director at UBS, has just joined PR firm Brunswick Group as a director, and Jonathan Leinster, managing director and head of the European leisure research division, joined Panmure Gordon.

All of these departures may, of course, be completely voluntary. But with pressure mounting to cut the bonus pool, UBS has invested a lot of money bringing in expensive senior coverage and advisory investment bankers over the last 12 months. UBS has already had to cap bonuses for its Swiss FX and precious metals traders to 200% of base salaries. It also faces £500m in fines relating to the forex scandal. What better time to get rid of some expensive incumbents?

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