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These days the top Greek bankers aren't based in Greece

This time last year, bankers with Greek clients were busy. “It was booming,” says one senior Greek M&A banker and private equity professional in London, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Now all my colleagues who work in M&A have fallen into a depression.”

Measured in terms of deal volume, M&A was up 50% in Greece in 2014. This year, the Greek M&A teams – or what’s left of them, are twiddling their Souvlaki sticks. “Most banks just have a managing director and an associate covering Greece,” says the banker. “By the end of this year, it will just be an MD and the rest will be covered by industry teams.”

The eFinancialCareers CV database contains 2,300 CVs belonging to native Greek speakers, of whom nearly 2,200 are in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and 850 are in London. Just 33 are in New York City. Greek bankers like to stay close to home.

“The Greek middle classes have a long history of sending their children overseas to be educated,” says the senior banker. “A lot of them have studied either a Bachelors or a Masters degree in London.”

This is evident in the educational history of London’s most senior Greek financiers. Nicholas Exarchos, head of capital markets and treasury solutions for Greece at Cyprus at Deutsche Bank, was educated at London’s Imperial College. Stefanos Papapanagiotou, the former senior Credit Suisse M&A banker who joined UBS last year was educated at Warwick Business School and Queen Mary and Westfield College London. Aristides Vourakis, a managing director and head of investment banking for Greece at J.P. Morgan, studied at Masters in accounting and finance at the London School of Economics. Citi’s Linnos Lekkas studied an MPhil in finance at Cambridge…

Greeks in finance aren’t restricted to IBD. Our own stats suggest that around 25% of the Greek finance professionals in London are in sales, trading and research, with another 7% in risk and 3% in quant jobs. “There are quite a few Greeks in quant roles,” says James Kennedy, head of the quant and trading desk at NJF Search in London. “There’s a massive brain drain – the best and brightest start out in Greece and then leave to study a Masters in London or the US.”

Senior Greeks on the trading floor include Athanasios Vamvakidis, a former deputy division chief at the IMF who’s has a PhD from Harvard and is now head of G10 FX strategy for Europe at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. There’s also Dimitrios Nikolakopoulos, an MD in equity derivatives trading at Goldman Sachs (with a Masters from the London School of Economics).

On Wall Street, there’s Takis Georgakopoulos, a former McKinsey Partner who works for J.P. Morgan. In 2014, Georgakopoulos was promoted to chief of staff at J.P. Morgan’s corporate and investment bank. Despite having a PhD at the National Technical University of Athens – Greece’s top University, he subsequently studied a Masters in the mathematics of finance at Columbia. There’s also Emmanuel Petrakis, a senior banker at Moelis & Co. in NYC who studied a finance MBA at NYU Stern.

The senior banker we spoke to said most Greek finance professionals are resigned to never going back home. “I live in Mayfair and work in Mayfair,” he told us. “Most of the international Greek finance community associate themselves with the previous government of Samaras,” he added. “If the Germans knew what they were doing they would have cut a deal with that pro-European government last year.”

Now, he thinks Greece should leave the euro: “Let’s get it over with. Look at Cyprus, six months later, everything’s been forgotten and they’re raising capital again.” But it won’t be easy. “I believe there will be a war in Greece in the next month,” he concludes. “Riots in the streets. The people who want to stay in the euro aren’t going to accept a decision to leave, and the people who want to leave aren’t going to accept a decision to stay.”

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