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US banks are hiring for local M&A execution teams in continental Europe. But the new jobs could prove short-lived if (and when) the fizz goes out of the market.

"The spirit of the times is all about trying to create as local a flavour as possible," says the head of one international search firm in London. "Country teams are now nearly as big as they were in 2000."

Barbara Valaperti, a consultant at Heidrick & Struggles in Italy, says US banks are adding to their execution capabilities in Paris and Milan "All the US banks are hiring vice presidents, associates and analysts to execute deals locally."

The process is being replicated in Germany, where Andreas Weik of Frankfurt-based headhunter Hofmann & Heads AG, says local M&A teams are approaching their peak capacity of six years ago. "US banks now have a lot of execution people on the ground in Germany - there still aren't as many as in London, but hiring here isn't over yet."

Soaring European M&A is spurring the build-out. European deals rose more than 40% in the first three quarters of this year according to Thomson Financial. Some of the continent's largest deals - such as the US$37.5bn merger between SanPaolo IMI/Banca Intesa, have taken place outside the UK.

But if the current boom falters, recruiters caution that the new jobs could prove particularly vulnerable. "In 2002 the American banks cut a lot of their execution teams in Germany," cautions Weik at Hofman & Heads. "When the deals don't come, US banks cut in branch offices like Frankfurt and move execution back to the centre of competence in London."

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