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The small bank picking up investment bankers from larger competitors

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Berenberg, the small German bank with 1,300 employees worldwide, has big plans for its London operation. While most bulge bracket banks are scaling back, it’s building its investment bank in Threadneedle Street.

“A lot of our hiring is counter-cyclical. We’re have built a mining research team when most other banks are scaling back and a focused emerging markets research team when just about every other bank is cutting back in this area,” says Laura Janssens, co-head of equity research at Berenberg.

London is the centre of Berenberg’s investment bank. It employs 270 people in the City, primarily in investment banking. Globally, 330 people work for its investment bank.

So far, most of its recruitment over the past few months has focused on equity research. Last year, Berenberg established a thematics team, lead by Nick Anderson, and Janssens says it intends to double the team from four people over the next six months. It’s also hired three analysts into its emerging markets research team this year, and has plans to expand its UK mid-cap coverage team from five people to around eight in 2016.

Janssens says that part of the rationale for building in equity research is that the ‘unbundling’ of research under MiFID II will lead to increased demand for quality insight. “As far as we’re concerned, anything that leads to more scrutiny of research quality is an opportunity for us,” she says.

The current climate is also presenting an opportunity to hire good staff. “There are a lot of unhappy people available now because of the downsizing among our competitors, and we’ve developed a reputation as a hirer with an appetite to produce quality research,” Janssens says.

In total, Berenberg expects to add around 15 people this year in research. In the U.S., it will be building its equity trading desk launched in September. In the UK, it will also make selective hires in equity sales and trading. Additionally, it plans to hire 26 graduates into its equities business in 2016.

Last year, across the organisation, Berenberg paid an average of €140k ($156k). This may be some way behind the $296k average earned at Goldman Sachs, but still outstrips the €132.2k mean pay out at larger rival Deutsche Bank’s corporate and investment bank (even if this is weighed down by back office staff).

Getting into Berenberg involves at least six to eight interviews including meetings with both Janssens and David Mortlock, managing director and head of equities.

What does it take to get in? Janssens insists that there’s no perfect candidate.

“There’s no single type of person we’re looking for – we want people with interesting views on stocks that are mispriced,” she says. “The one common element among our analysts is that they’re passionate, bordering on obsessive, about the sectors they cover.”

It can also help if you bring insights from other industries.

“We’re also looking to hire people who have worked in other sectors – such as accountancy or consultancy or from industry – and want to do something more client-facing,” says Janssens.

Photo: weerapatkiatdumrong/iStock/Thinkstock

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