Relief for banks as 2011 sees fees rise

INVESTMENT banks have raked in their largest first-quarter fees pool since 2007 with fees up eight per cent globally on last year, according to Thomson Reuters data released yesterday.

The UK and Ireland saw fees drop 5.4 per cent, however, versus north America, where fees income rose 13.4 per cent.

Barclays Capital was the biggest gainer among banks, with its fees up 41.5 per cent to $925.8m, enough to boost the bank three places further up the rankings to sixth globally.

JP Morgan retained its position at the top of the league, bringing in $1.39bn, while Goldman fell from second to fourth on what the bank has admitted has been a “slow start” to the year. Its fees income rose six per cent to $1.96bn, but it was overtaken by Bank of America/Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley, both of which saw their fees revenues jump by more than a quarter.

Another faller was Citigroup, where fees rose only five per cent to $908m, dropping the bank to eighth place from fifth.

Strikingly, the four biggest fee-payers include three firms bailed out by the US government, with Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and AIG accounting for 22.3 per cent of all fees that investment banks charged globally.

Since 2009, the three institutions have handed over $3.6bn in fees to investment banks. The third largest fee-payer was Citigroup, which paid $1.42bn to its rivals, mostly for equity transactions.

Work on mergers and acquisitions (M&A) brought in the most cash, generating $7.06bn in fees in the first quarter of this year, up slightly from $6.84bn in the same period last year. Morgan Stanley had the largest “walletshare” in M&A, its traditional strength, accounting for 6.8 per cent of earnings. The rise in fees will provide some relief for banks that saw business slow in the latter half of last year, particularly as bond trading dried up due to the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis.