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Bonuses banked, juniors prepare to flee investment banks

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Right now, London-based recruiters who help junior bankers find new jobs are busy. Very busy. Rushed off their feet and unable to breathe busy: it’s all happening now that juniors at U.S. investment banks have actually received their bonuses for 2017.

“It’s been insane,” says Andrew Pringle, director of Circle Square Recruitment. “We have 200% more jobs coming through this year than last and around 50% more applications for vacancies.” Logan Naidu, CEO of recruitment firm Dartmouth partners is more circumspect, but similarly bullish: “It’s a very busy market this year and you are going to see a lot of turnover,” he says.

Some of this turnover appears to have hit Citi, where bonuses were paid on Wednesday. Several recruiters say there’s been an “exodus” from Citi’s investment banking business this week, although juniors still at the bank say they hadn’t seen much sign of it. HSBC is also rumoured to have let go of various juniors at an analyst and associate level before its bonuses are paid, although this may have been part of its annual end of year cuts.

If juniors are vacating their current banking jobs, they may not be able to find new openings at top tier firms. Citi, for example, is currently advertising no openings for analysts and associates at its investment bank in London. Nor is Deutsche Bank (although DB does have a curious vacancy for a corporate finance sector coverage analyst to execute global M&A deals out of its office in Birmingham).  Morgan Stanley is advertising one London-based analyst position, and Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan are each advertising five roles for M&A juniors. If the market’s on fire, big banks don’t seem to be the ones feeding the flames.

Instead, recruiters say it’s the smaller banks and boutiques that are hiring, More than this though, they say the buy-side’s appetite for banking juniors is bigger than ever before. “Opportunities to move to the buy-side have exploded in recent years,” says the head of one junior-focused search firm who asked not to be quoted. “It’s the private equity funds and the private debt funds that are hiring.You also have people moving to fintech.”

Pringle says opportunities with family offices and corporate development have also proliferated. Meanwhile, banks are busy trying to keep hold of their juniors with schemes to attenuate working hours and trim training programs, but their efforts may be to no avail. As one soon-to-be M&A analyst informed us last week: “I plan to work in a bank for two years and then leave for private equity – and most of my class are doing the same.”

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