If the first quarter success of investment banking divisions (perpetuated today by HSBC), wasn't a sign that things are looking up for the industry, the suggestion that RBS may be (very selectively) hiring surely is.
On Friday's conference call, The Times said RBS chief exec Stephen Hester acknowledged, 'that the bank was still paying some guaranteed bonuses to retain and attract key staff.'
Unfortunately however, RBS's efforts at staff attraction and its payment of guarantees may not be what they seem.
Headhunters say RBS has certainly been interviewing in areas like FX, but that there's little sign of it doing any active recruitment there. "Interviewing may just be a hedge in case people leave," says one. "They've definitely been interviewing, but I haven't seen them hire anyone. It may just be fact finding," says another.
A spokesperson for RBS also points out that Hester said the guarantees would only be for a very small number of people. And cash guarantees are probably out of the question: given that RBS has jettisoned cash bonuses in favour of deferred subordinated debt, it seems likely that any guaranteed bonuses will be in subordinated debt too.
If so, one FX headhunter says they're unlikely to appeal to anyone in the FX market. "RBS will have to pay a guarantee to hire and people will definitely be looking for a large portion of that in cash."
Separately, Hester also said RBS had lost hundreds of people from its investment banking division due to concerns about government intervention.