When we held our highly secretive subterranean assembly for senior recruiters at investment banks this week, someone among them said a strange thing: UBS has been bidding the market up, he suggested (quietly).
This seemed far-fetched. UBS, after all, made a loss at its investment bank in the second quarter. Its first half cost/revenue ratio was 88%. If any bank is unable to bid up the market, it is surely UBS?
We had, however, forgotten Andrea Orcel. As we have reported, Orcel is said to be clearing the decks at UBS and surrounding himself with a group of acolytes hired in from elsewhere. Evidence is emerging that this is indeed the case.
Orcel has hired Jasper Tans, a partner from Goldman Sachs as an MD for its ECM team. Tans had only been a partner at Goldman since 2010, suggesting Orcel may have paid handsomely to attract him. Tans isn't Orcel's only hire: headhunters claim he's close to closing a very senior Credit Suisse M&A banker and the FSA register shows that in the past two months he's recruited Javier Martinez Piqueras, a senior Iberian M&A banker from Merrill Lynch.
Nor does UBS seem to be limiting its hiring to Orcel's domain (M&A and capital markets). Since August, it's also brought the following people on board in London: Raffaello Sarlo, an FX salesperson from Credit Suisse, Stefan Weiser, a former head of Asian commodities at Goldman Sachs, Shane Edwards, the former Hong Kong-based global head of structuring in investor products and equity derivatives at RBS, Gary Vinokur, a former director of emerging markets fixed income trading and structuring at Merrill Lynch, Thomas Ellerton, an interest rate structurer at Morgan Stanley, and Artur Kuzma, an FX salesperson at Goldman Sachs.
This isn't bad going for a bank that's supposed to be in serious cost cutting mode. We can only imagine that UBS is engaged in some serious upgrading of its existing staff.
London headhunters say Orcel is definitely in upgrading/build mode and that his eagerness to pick off other banks' staff is causing disquiet. "He's been interviewing everyone and making some very big promises," claims one. "But he's struggling to get sign-off from UBS for the hires, so he's only brought a few people on so far."