Were Bear Stearns bankers quite good after all?

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SocGen's pinched Michel Peretie, Merrill's pinched Fares D. Noujaim, and at least two Bear bankers (Jeff Mayer and Craig Overlander) are sufficiently confident of their own desirability to turn down Jamie Dimon's offer of employment. Could it be that Bear Stearns had some pretty good people on its books?

Off the record, one senior JPMorgan banker in Europe says there were a few, but that most of Bear's talented staff have been targeted by other firms - despite Jamie Dimon's call for rivals to leave them alone (except of course, those he didn't want himself).

London headhunters say Bear's business was good in patches. "They had a few good sector teams in healthcare and TMT," says one advisory search consultant.

"There were pockets of good people in areas like structured credit, and people like Peretie were very high calibre," says a fixed income headhunter.

Headhunters say the main thing Bear bankers bring to the table is a sense of entrepreneurialism born of Bear's maverick culture. "A salesman who was making 10m at Bear Stearns could probably make 20m at JPMorgan," says one. "These guys are used to making things happen themselves."

Those qualities also mean Bear types may find the bureaucracy of JPMorgan too stifling for their taste. "You couldn't get two banks that are more culturally distinct," says one headhunter. "Given the market, people will stay at JPMorgan for a year and leave once their guaranteed bonuses have been paid out."