Everyone wants to work for...Lazard

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Brucey's bonus runs rings around Blankfein's, and Lazard doesn't have any nasty sub-prime monsters lurking about. Is this why everyone's queuing up to work there?

When Lazard's vice chairman Steven Golub took to the phones during last week's analyst call on the bank's full year results, the Financial Times says he remarked upon the bank's newfound popularity - Lazard, according to Golub, is being "inundated" with the CVs of people who suddenly want to work for it.

Golub says the CVs are flowing in because the bank's seen as an "island of stability" [in these difficult times].

The bank's alleged popularity may also have something to do with the fact that its fourth quarter earnings were up 43% and - even more impressively - that chief exec Bruce Wasserstein was awarded a bonus even larger than that of Lloyd Blankfein at Goldman Sachs (Breakingviews questions whether this is entirely rational).

Lazard's not the only corporate finance outfit on a roll. Greenhill & Co. also revealed a similarly impressive increase in fourth quarter profits last week.

Lazard claims to be hiring "selectively" in 2008 and insiders say Greenhill is also eyeing up additional M&A talent.

Shame about the pay

However, headhunters challenge the notion that bankers are rushing to queue up outside M&A houses. "Unless you're a senior MD, Lazard has historically paid 30% less than the rest of the market," says one search consultant. "There might be a few people at houses like Bank of America and CIBC who are uncertain about their future and interested in the smaller players, but you're not going to get many of them."

"This is just a bit of PR from Lazard - most M&A bankers up to MD level were paid really well this year and are quite happy," says another.

M&A bankers who leap over to Lazard may, in any case, find themselves slightly out of their depth: "A lot of people at large banks like to have the comfort of a large product armoury," says Robert Colthorpe, a partner at boutique corporate finance house Europa Partners. "Culturally, it's quite a bit of a transition to move to a boutique, and boutiques tend to be careful about who they hire as a result. But for the right people a boutique can be a great place to work."