Given the course of events surrounding Citigroup, Phibro and Andrew Hall's $100m bonus, you might think banks would be steering clear of proprietary trading. This is not so.
According to a recent report from Heidrick & Struggles' hedge fund team, banks in Europe are quietly bringing on prop talent again. "A good number of candidates are interviewing at most large banks, as well as the smaller banks," says Claude Schwab, a partner in the hedge fund team.
Today's news that JP Morgan has recruited a managing director from UniCredit for its commodities prop trading desk would seem to confirm this, even if the hire is simply to replace the five commodities traders lured to BarCap in the summer.
The stealthy return to prop hiring follows the public removal of prop traders last year, when UBS, Deutsche Bank, Calyon and JP Morgan all pulled back in the interests of risk reduction.
However, visible prop trading retrenchment may be primarily a PR exercise. As Matthew Goldstein points out, Citigroup may be dumping Phibro, but it still has its Principal Strategies Group.
Other recruiters, and the prop trading firms which have picked up many of banks' refugees, confirm investment banks' resurgent interest in prop trading talent.
"West Pac, Macquarie and the Japanese banks have all been hiring people," claims one trader.
"Banks are absolutely and building their teams. JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley have both hired," says another. "Client volumes are down and their balance sheets are healthy, so they're back in business."