Why are coverage bankers disappearing from UBS?

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Curious things are afoot at UBS. It's been an OK year for M&A and the Swiss bank hasn't said anything about pulling back from the business, but people seem to be leaving. Financial News reports that Chris Niehaus, head of the European Industrials team, is on his way out, as is Carsten Ridder, a Frankfurt-based managing director in European industrials, Dr Anthony Hartley, a managing director in pharmaceuticals, and Jackie Lee, a managing director in M&A who worked on the merger between Carphone Warehouse and Dixons.

UBS declined to comment on the exits. However, it's understood that the individuals concerned may have left without new jobs to go to. Last week, two senior bankers at UBS in Asia opted to leave the firm voluntarily. 

One M&A headhunter said UBS is applying a Nomura-esque filter to its M&A business and focusing only on a few sectors that it's especially strong in (allegedly financial institutions, TMT and natural resources). Last year, the Swiss bank ranked 13th for industrials according to Dealogic, suggesting it's not so strong there. There are definite signs of a shake-up. UBS reorganized its European M&A business in May, reportedly replacing its existing head of client coverage (James Hartop) with a new head of client coverage (Julian Monte) so that the existing head could spend more time covering clients...

However, UBS has also promised to hire 24 grey-haired M&A bankers before the end of 2015. It's therefore possible that the recent departures are to prepare for a little upgrading. Recent silver-trussed additions include two senior bankers for its FIG practice, one senior banker for EMEA healthcare deals and Severin Brizay from JPMorgan, who's joining in August to lead the EMEA M&A team.

Andrea Orcel, chief executive of UBS's investment bank, and a career M&A banker himself, is understood to be revamping UBS's M&A team. These may not be the last of the departures - especially once Brizay turns up next month and decides to stamp his authority on the business too.

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