Who are the most sought-after people in all of financial services now? Try London-based analysts and associates with debt restructuring and leveraged finance experience. Headhunters are all over them.
“As an ex-restructuring junior banker I’ve been getting a significant number of calls from headhunters for positions at credit hedge funds," says Guillaume Tardy Joubert of careers site Coaching Assembly, "I've had several calls per month for the past few months, and I know some people who’ve got two or three offers from credit funds. Those kinds of multiple offers haven’t been around for years."
Centerbridge Partners, the U.S. fund which opened a London office in 2011 is said to be busy shopping for staff. In an article published last week, the Financial Times said Och Ziff, Monarch Alternative Capital and BTG Pactual are also all building distressed debt teams in the city.
Tardy Joubert said all the approaches he's had are from U.S. hedge funds who've opened offices in Europe. "At the junior level their ideal hire seems to be an analyst or associate from a restructuring / leveraged finance team,” he says. "Due to an increased number of under-performing loans being put up for sale by European financial institutions, there's a growing interest in European distressed assets."
Logan Naidu, chief executive of recruitment firm Dartmouth Partners confirmed the rush of distressed debt hiring, but said the interest in young bankers isn't restricted to U.S. hedge funds pursuing junior distressed debt specialists - all good banking juniors are getting 'tapped-up' by headhunters now. "It's not just distressed debt, the whole market has picked up. There's big demand for junior bankers and a lack of supply because banks didn't fill the pipeline in the past few years.
"I had one candidate who had four offers in ten days. That is a sign of a hot market," says Naidu.
Only James Heath at recruitment firm Greenwich Partners casts a note of caution. "There's been a lot of hiring in distressed debt and leveraged loans for the past few years now. It's been pretty buoyant since 2012 and a lot of the debt funds have increased their analyst and associate levels significantly already," Heath says, adding that he hasn't seen much corporate finance activity either.
The Financial Conduct Authority Register suggests overall hiring numbers at distressed debt funds may indeed be small. CenterBridge Partners has 13 registered people in London, up from 12 in 2012. Monarch Alternative Capital has four, up from three in March 2013. Och Ziff has 29, up from 24 in 2013. That's seven new recruits in two years. Of course, it's possible that new staff may have been added on an unregistered basis. Alternatively, the supposed distressed debt hiring wave may be more of a splash focused on a few hot 20 year olds with the most prized skills. Lucky them.