These are busy times for financial services headhunters. As Bloomberg observed yesterday, Credit Suisse’s 17,000 investment bank staff, 5,500 of whom are in London, are overwhelming headhunters with calls.
It’s not an entirely fruitless process.
Michael Nelson, managing director at New York search firm Quest Group, says there’s a “talent frenzy” underway as rival banks scout the best Credit Suisse employees. Although Credit Suisse has been bleeding since the collapse of Archegos in early 2021 and although many people in areas like credit trading have left of their own volition, plenty of employees of the Swiss bank also remained loyal until the end.
“There are a lot of very talented investment bankers, M&A advisors and leveraged finance professionals at Credit Suisse who are being actively recruited by competitors,” says Nelson. “Credit Suisse still has some very talented people.”
In London, competitors sniffing around are understood to include the likes of Lazard and Greenhill. In New York, firms like Moelis & Co, Jefferies and big US firms are said to be interested in Credit Suisse’s bankers. Despite hiring freezes, and despite concerns about stability and this year’s revenues, CS’s demise and the cancellation of its bonuses mark an opportunity to pick up people unusually cheaply.
In New York, some of the most desirable people are to be found in Credit Suisse’s leveraged finance and high yield business, where the intentions of key players like David Miller and Jason Safreit are unclear. Many of the remaining people in the high yield and leveraged finance business had stayed with the bank in the expectation of joining CS First Boston. Now that CS First Boston is cancelled, they have little reason to stay at UBS’s much smaller franchise.
In London, Credit Suisse equities professionals are looking for new jobs and remembering with fondness the days when they were major players in the market. “Our AES business accounted for 20% of the shares traded in Europe in 2010,” recalls one senior equities professional, referring to Credit Suisse’s advanced execution services algorithmic trading system, which has been losing talent since the exit of veteran electronic trader Naz Al-Khudairi in 2018 and Daniel Mathieson in 2016. However, sources say Credit Suisse still has plenty of talented equity derivatives professionals in London, many of whom were hired by Mike Stewart, an ex-head of equities trading at UBS, who himself left in 2019.
It’s still a slow hiring market, and it’s getting slower
For many at Credit Suisse, though, finding new roles either inside or outside UBS will not be easy. Events of the past week have cooled an already tepid hiring market and made rivals unwilling to sign-off on new talent. “I’m already hearing that people who have had job offers are getting them rescinded,” whispers one Credit Suisse insider. “The contracts never come, or they say they’ve decided to wait. It doesn’t help that other banks are going to start cutting heavily now. Deals are not going to be announced and revenue recognition in the first quarter will be delayed; there will be some horrific numbers when banks report at the end of Q1.”
Even where line managers want to hire, headhunters and people already in the market say they are being held back by senior staff. “Since February, things seem to have picked up,” says one senior Goldman Sachs refugee. “But decisions are taking a long time and I can’t tell if this is on purpose or not.”
In the circumstances, career experts say there are a few measures to make yourself employable.
Don’t delay: For the moment, Credit Suisse people have an easy story to tell, says Wall Street careers consultant Roy Cohen. This can be summarized as: “The firm tanked.” This is a good starting point and he says anyone coming out of Credit Suisse should act on it as quickly as possible. “At some point, the world moves on and forgets about these cataclysmic events as new ones emerge. They’ll remember, but they’ll also wonder why you haven’t landed. It’s a red flag to interviewers. They may begin to question how motivated you are to be back at work or if there’s some quirk or issue that you’re hiding that has blocked your success in job search.”
Be flexible: There are still people from Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley on the market, and standards may need to be dropped. “If you are laid off from Goldman Sachs you will first go to Morgan Stanley but when you can’t get a job at Morgan Stanley and you’ve been out of the market for a while, you will need to start exploring firms you’ve never thought of and maybe hadn’t heard of,” says Richard Lipstein at Lee Hecht Harrison. “You will need a plan B.”
Stay busy, manage stress: It’s often easier to find a new job when you’re busy and on top of things, says Cohen. If stagnation takes hold, it can be hard to regain momentum. For this reason, he recommends taking on consulting work while you look for something permanent. It will also make you a more interesting candidate as you can talk about contemporary projects.
Suck-up to UBS: For people still at Credit Suisse, this is probably the main priority now. Work out who the relevant decision maker is at UBS and inveigle your way in. “People who know and like you are more likely to protect you when cuts are made,” Cohen points out.
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