Everyone wants to be a private banking headhunter

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OK, well maybe not everyone, but this does appear to be true of some investment banking headhunters who are finding business isn't quite as it used to be. As ever, our assertions are based on incontrovertible third-party research, this time from website The Wealth Net.

According to an article on the site, "as many as 30 UK executive search firms" are now trying to reinvent themselves as private banking headhunters to escape the downturn in investment banking recruitment.

Good luck to them, says Christian Sulger Buel, managing director of private banking-focused search firm Sulger Buel & Company. "This is not the right time," he says. "Most of the specialist private boutiques have imposed hiring freezes, they're just not saying so publicly yet."

Despite alleged freezes, private banks still appear to be doing plenty of hiring. This week, for example, Rothschild announced three additions to its London private banking operation, and Allied Irish Bank said it was launching a new London private banking office, soon to be staffed by 25 people.

Mark Somers, of private banking search firm the Somers Partnership, says a lot of the new entrants are contingency recruitment firms: "They've found there's not much going on at investment banks, so they're moving into the private banking space. They're producing a lot of heat, but I don't know whether they're making a lot of light."

Sulger Buel predicts that many of the new entrants will disappear again once investment banking hiring picks up: "The fees [for luring away headhunting private bankers] are much lower than in investment banking."

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