Unicredit on the go

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The Italian bank is hiring heavily in London - and hoovering up disaffected ABN AMRO staff in the process.

Mark Sweeting, ABN AMRO's European head of macro financial instittions and public sector FX sales is the latest to make the move. Sweeting resigned today and plans to join Unicredit as US and UK head of real money sales, according to headhunters.

"They're adding heavily in areas like interest rates and foreign exchange," says one. "And ABN has been one of their targets."

With ABN staff squirming under the protracted takeover battle between Barclays and the consortium led by Royal Bank of Scotland - and restricted from moving to any of the many banks involved in the deal - Unicredit's attentions are likely to be much appreciated.

Unicredit is no stranger to mergers. The Italian bank acquired German-based HypoVereinsbank (HVB) and Bank Austria Creditanstalt in 2005 and is said to be interested in a merger of equals with Société Générale.

According to headhunters, a hiring freeze imposed following the HVB merger has recently been lifted and is a factor behind the current hiring spree - the bank is also said to be building out in equity derivatives in London.

One headhunter says life at Unicredit is likely to be fraught due to the internal politics inherent in combining three different institutions. However, Lee Thacker, a partner at search firm Heidrick & Struggles in London, says the Italian bank is likely to prove a good destination for ABN AMRO bankers looking for a new home: "It's a natural cultural fit."

Steve Turner, global head of FX sales at the Unicredit Group, says other hires will follow: "Unicredit Group are building their foreign exchange presence London, that's no secret."