Banks that were hiring are now firing. There is a predictable symmetry between those who've been recently hired and those who are now being fired.
As the outlook worsens for M&A, recruiters say many of those being let go are associate- level investment bankers who were hired externally (either from MBA courses or as recently qualified ACAs) in 2010.
"I've seen junior M&A bankers who've been let go from BarCap, UBS, Nomura and Bank of America Merrill Lynch," says one recruiter who places junior M&A staff. "The people coming to me seem mostly to be the ones who've joined banks laterally over the past two years rather than those who came up through graduate programmes."
Bank of America is also said to be relinquishing senior M&A bankers as part of its London redundancies. This seems strange given its big push on building M&A in EMEA earlier this year and commitment to hire 30 new MDs.
However, conditions have changed since Q1. Thomson Reuters said this week that although EMEA M&A volumes rose 19% year on year in the first 9 months of 2011, there's been a marked deterioration as the year has progressed. The third quarter was the worst since the start of 2010. Areas like utilities have been dead.
Moreover, some banks made more than others of the deal activity in the first half: Goldman Sachs increased its market share of competed EMEA M&A deals by 11.2%. Citi, UBS, Lazard, Rothschild and BarCap, all lost out.
If you're one of the M&A professionals let go by a big bank, you may want to try your hand at a boutique. Moelis apparently intends to hire selectively next year. Greenhill and Evercore are said to be hiring too.
"Some boutiques still have a need at the moment," says John Axworthy at J Robert Scott Executive Search. "But that capacity will be filled pretty quickly if a lot of people come out of banks and these market conditions continue."
Separately, the tendency to hire and fire may be accentuated in future. Earlier this week, the UK government declared its intention to increase the qualifying period for unfair dismissal 1 to 2 years, starting 6th of April 2012.