Going mad for M&A bankers

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At the rate the ranks of M&A bankers are growing, they will soon outnumber the general population.

In March this year, Lehman Brothers, which didn't have much of a presence in Australia up to that point, bought local securities and advisory firm Grange, to spearhead its move into the local market; it's not the only one keen to tap Australia's sizzling M&A seam.

"It's hot," says Lee Rochester of recruitment firm Futurestep. "Lots of organisations are looking for 10 to15 or more senior M&A bankers across a variety of industries and products - leveraged finance, particularly."

If M&A is hot, it seems that leveraged finance, the debt component of M&A and private equity buyout activity, is burning up. UBS and Credit Suisse are strong in the field, as are retail banks, although their deals are smaller. At the same time, the big investment banks, like Merrill Lynch, HBOS, Royal Bank of Scotland and Deutsche are all bulking up their leveraged finance teams.

Caan Krsztew-Ivanow, at Melbourne-based recruiter Graeme Jones, says everyone is looking for top M&A bankers, but perversely - given the rush to hire - banks are becoming more fussy about where they find them. "For several years, the banks took in lawyers and accountants; now they try to poach people already in financial services," he says.

"But what they want, above all," he says, "is people in alternative energy. That's the hottest of all, and they will go to wherever alternative energy is active - Germany, Scandinavia, the US - looking for experienced people."

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