Playing catch-up pushes prices up

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Market followers generally have to pay more to hire than market leaders, and with several follower banks in hiring mode, pay is rising faster than ever.

One of the big culprits, according to headhunters, is Royal Bank of Scotland.

"RBS is buying its way into the market," says one. "And when you do that you have to pay a premium to get people."

Last week, the Scots bank hired three senior financial institutions group (FIG) debt bankers from Lehman.

RBS' inflationary effect is said to be particularly noticeable in the US, where it has a declared ambition to become a top-tier force in US corporate and investment banking and plans to hire up to 300 staff this year. Earlier this week RBS Greenwich Capital announced the recruitment of three senior credit traders from UBS.

Commenting on its US ambitions earlier this month, Johnny Cameron, chief executive of the RBS Global Banking and Markets division, said: "We are an established top 10 player. The next stage is to consolidate a top five position."

Cameron said the division plans to recruit 1,250 staff worldwide this year. It has hired 2,250 people in the past two years as part of the expansion.

RBS isn't the only bank responsible for pushing up the price of bankers. One headhunter said that several banks are paying 10% to 20% up on last year and offering long guarantees in credit derivatives. "Most people are asking for a two-year guarantee to join Commerzbank, ABN AMRO, Dresdner or HSBC," he says.

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