UBS remains a prime hunting ground for other investment banks keen to capitalise on recent defections, missed deals and bonus concerns at the Swiss firm.
A string of senior departures began in mid-2010 when Henry Cai, its top China banker, took several of his colleagues to Deutsche Bank.
Other resignations include Steven Barg, head of global capital markets for Asia, who went to Goldman Sachs; and Mark Williams, head of UBS Asia equity capital markets, who joined Nomura.
So when will it end? Not too soon, if Cai has his way. He is still keen to poach more of his old team mates, according to a Hong Kong headhunter, who asked not to be named.
“There will be moves but I know that Cai is choosing people very selectively, given that Deutsche bank already has a large team.”
Deutsche is using Cai’s rainmaking ability, especially with mid-cap companies, as its trump card to attract other bankers. “The man has pulling power,” says the recruiter.
Money might also be a motivator, he adds. Most of last year’s UBS-to-Deutsche gang received guaranteed bonuses, and the Financial Times reports that some of those who left UBS were dissatisfied with their compensation.
UBS’ deal-making reputation, at least in the short term, took a knock in 2010 when it failed to win work on the biggest China deals – the $22.1bn initial public offering of Agricultural Bank of China, and Bank of China’s $9bn rights issue.
But don’t write off the old firm just yet. “The amount of deals it’s doing may be dropping this year, but on the ECM side, UBS is still a very good employer brand,” says another headhunter.
The bank also has ambitious hiring plans in China. As we reported in January, it wants to double its 500-strong mainland headcount within three to five years.
And Deutsche isn’t having things all its own way either. Last week Wei Wei Zhao, one of Cai’s UBS defectors, was hired by Citi.