Feelers are coming out of UBS's equities team, but NO ONE is hiring

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Things have progressed since we last looked at whether anyone is trying to find an alternative employer to UBS.

Last week, no one was. This week, some people are.

Equities headhunters say persons from the Swiss bank's highly ranked equity research team are indeed getting in touch. "I'm meeting a UBS analyst this afternoon," the chief executive of one research-focused headhunter tells us.

As UBS points out, its equity research staff are very highly employable indeed: last year it was rated the leading Pan-European brokerage for equity linked research by the Thomson Reuters Extel Survey for the 11th year running. In 2010, no fewer than 28 research teams at UBS were voted the best in the region.

"There are some excellent people at UBS," maintains the headhunter. "A lot of banks are going to be interested in them."

Unfortunately, this interest may not translate into hiring. The European managing director of a rival research headhunter points out that all the other banks that might be worth joining aren't recruiting anyone. "Merrill, Deutsche, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, they've all got a hiring freeze on. That's the problem," he explains.

To have the best chance of finding an opportunity elsewhere, UBS's very desirable equity researchers will need to leave soon, without a bonus, and to forego a guarantee for 2011 at the house they move to. This way they will be on the market before the post-bonus exodus of people from other banks next year, and they won't be too expensive to hire.

Enthusiasm for this course of action is, apparently, limited. Although the general supposition is that UBS won't be paying bonuses for 2011, there's still a slight hope that it might. UBS is maintaining that ambiguity. "UBS is going to try and string this out," predicts the chief executive. "It's in their interest to muddy the waters."

Peter Thorne, analyst at Helvea, suggests people at UBS aren't leaving so that they can pick up either redundancy payments or loyalty payments to induce them to stay. "The whole exercise will be a bit like the X factor," he predicts. "The chosen few get loyalty bonuses to stay and all the rest booted out."

In a conference call at the weekend, UBS's new chief executive, Sergio Ermotti, said: "The investment banking industry is due to shrink. Who wants to have a job will have to accept the new paradigm."

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