Moving down a notch (or two)

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Lehman Brothers has lost three of its senior FIG debt bankers to Royal Bank of Scotland. What inspires top bankers to downsize the franchise they work for?

In general, there are three things, according to James Richardson, at search firm Odgers Ray & Berndtson - more money, more prominence, and more growth.

"In your current position you might be stuck behind a boss who's not going anywhere," he elaborates. "And the tier below is quite often in a position in which it's playing catch up - especially in a new area. You can go in there and be the man who's making the business, instead of someone in a well-oiled machine."

Richardson doesn't say so explicitly, but lesser established franchises are also known for paying hefty guaranteed bonuses to lure business-builders. Witness HSBC's (reputedly short-lived) generosity to its investment banking hires, for example.

Whether Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) is really quite such a step down is open to question. According to information provider Dealogic, it ranked 7th for European financial institutions debt activity in 2006 with a 5.1% market share, while Lehman ranked third, with a 6.3% share.

Another headhunter says RBS has plenty going for it. "They're well established in Europe. They've got ambition, strategy and firepower - and are not afraid to use it. When you compare them to an American investment bank with big aspirations but no balance sheet, you can see why they moved."

"They probably backed all this up with a very appealing package," he adds.

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