Given the option, U.S. investment banks in London would rather pass on native British hires. Continental Europeans are their recruits of choice.
"Britons are a dying breed in investment banking [IBD] roles at big banks, and have been for the past decade," says one senior M&A recruiter, speaking on condition of anonymity. He says British bankers are lazy. "They don't want to work hard. They join a U.S. bank's M&A team and stick at it for two or three years, but then they escape to the buy-side in search of a higher quality of life. Europeans are far more likely to stay. Nowadays, Europeans make up around 90% of the London IBD population at a junior level."
Andy Pringle, director at Circle Square Recruitment, also asserts the 10% figure. "At any bulge bracket bank, you'll find that 10% of the investment banking guys up to vice president (VP) level are British," says Pringle. However, he attributes this to languages rather than laziness. "When big banks are hiring for pan-European M&A, they want people who speak multiple European languages to native standard or very fluently. It's incredibly rare to find a British person who speaks more than one other language at that level."
The 10% figure is significant in the wake of suggestions that the British government may try to curb immigration from the European Union, a move that could seemingly leave some IBD teams seriously understaffed. Our own research a few weeks ago suggested that only 17% of City of London jobs are filled by immigrants from the EU. However, this applied to all jobs in the City, including back and middle office roles. Separate research into this year's front office hires at Morgan Stanley and at Goldman Sachs unearthed very few (if any Britons). It helps that continental European graduates are often older and have a lot more work experience than their British counterparts.
In the past Europeans in the City of London were referred to disparagingly as, 'Eurotrash.' Nowadays, recruiters say the pejorative term is only wielded by insecure Britons who can't compete. "There's a prejudice against British bankers," says the M&A recruiter. "If I was British and I didn't speak a European language, I'd be frustrated that most of the junior jobs at U.S. banks are going to Europeans," adds Pringle. "Once, the City used to be very Anglo-Saxon, now it's becoming more European."
We spoke to one French M&A banker who said prejudice against French bankers in particular hasn't entirely disappeared in London. "I've seen quite a bit of French-bashing," he told us. "The thing with us French is that we like to complain a lot. It's part of our national DNA - we have to complain, but we will get the job done." However, the purported French-bashing is being perpetrated by Germans rather than Britons. "Germans just get on with things, they don't like French complaining," he added.
[efc_twitter text="British M&A bankers are more plentiful at very senior levels"], say the recruiters. This is partly for historical reasons and partly because once they've made their money, senior continental Europeans tend to go back to their country of origin. Until then, recruiters say they're hiring in their own image - and that means hardworking, multilingual students with multiple finance internships. Britons can only look on and weep.