The recruitment season is expected to get into full swing over the next few weeks as bankers receive their bonuses and plot their next career moves.
US banks Bear Stearns, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers and Morgan Stanley have paid bonuses, and senior departures have followed. Robert Kaplan, a vice-chairman of Goldman Sachs, retired last week while Jon Anda, formerly co-head of global capital markets at Morgan Stanley, left this month to join an investment banking boutique run by his former colleagues Joe Perella and Terry Meguid.
Gerardo Braggiotti, former head of Lazard's European business, has also launched an advisory boutique.
With the boom in Europe's mergers and acquisitions market, senior investment bankers may decide the time is right to join boutiques or establish their own operations before the end of the next cycle. Lehman Brothers, which made big hires last year, is expected to continue in a similar vein. And a change in leadership at some institutions could precipitate high-level departures.
One City of London headhunter said: "There will be a great deal of change at big investment banks this year. The M&A and equity markets are strong so bankers will chance their arms after bonus time."
It is almost a year since Michael Sherwood and Scott Kapnick became joint chief executives of Goldman Sachs International, and they are expected to make their first senior reshuffle in the coming months. Meanwhile, bankers are predicting defections from HSBC's corporate and investment bank, as some staff cash in the last of their guaranteed bonuses.
Citigroup, JP Morgan and Merrill Lynch last week told bankers what their bonuses would be. Credit Suisse and UBS will follow this week. Barclays Capital and Deutsche Bank announce bonuses early next month.
Deutsche Bank is seeking a replacement in equity capital markets for Hubert Keller, who left as global head of the division last year. ABN Amro is understood to be looking for Middle East ECM origination bankers.
There is a shortage of ECM associate and vice-president-level execution bankers. The headhunter said: "There will be a bidding war for derivatives bankers. There will be a poor market for researchers as senior bankers are generally being replaced with vice-presidents to cut costs. I expect corporate broking hiring to continue." Banks want senior corporate brokers as they anticipate more beauty parades by FTSE 100 companies.