Barclays Capital sprays cash at ABN M&A bankers

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Who says Barclays Capital doesn't do M&A advisory? Bob Diamond's decision to hire wholesale from ABN suggests BarCap wants to do M&A and wants to do it badly.

Depending upon where you look, Barclays has hired anything from five to 40 people from ABN for a 'dedicated advisory team specialising in M&A'.

The FT says it's hired five senior rainmakers. The Independent and Financial News say it's hired 40 'bankers'.

Headhunters say the number's more like 25 bankers, plus 15 support staff.

Either way, Barclays has signalled its determination to get into a business that it's previously kept as a side dish. Financial News says the ABN hires are coming on two-year guarantees matching their 2007 compensation, and that some are being paid as much as 5m a year.

One search consultant says this is very generous, considering. "People were paid well at ABN in 2007 because of the merger, so matching that package is pretty punchy."

Last year, ABN ranked 14th globally in M&A, according to Thomson Financial. Despite the protestations by John Winger Winter, head of European investment banking at BarCap, that the bank has been involved in M&A for years, BarCap was nowhere to be seen in the rankings.

Are those expensive ABN bankers really worth it? Some have their doubts. "Jitesh Gardia is very good," says one headhunter. "A lot of the others are the kind of people you'd expect to see at second-tier banks, and some are bloody lucky to be moving with the others."

UK banking analysts, who are engrossed with the Bradford & Bingley crisis, spared a moment to express surprise at BarCap's move. "This isn't really their bag," said one. "They've also picked an interesting time to do it - and I don't mean that in a good sense, either."