Bank of America Merrill Lynch plays down impact of the Orcel brothers’ poaching

THE departure of star banker Andrea Orcel from Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAML) was never going to be friendly but few expected a full-blooded feud, which is what appears to have broken out.

After 20 years at the US investment bank, Orcel’s decision to move to UBS warranted only a few words in an otherwise lengthy internal communication about job changes.

BAML’s top management were clearly frustrated that having gone through the hoops to gain Orcel regulatory authorisation so that he could take over from Jonathan Moulds as European president, he then decided to defect to one of the bank’s big rivals.

The news of his departure was then followed by insiders hinting that, though he is undoubtedly a brilliant client handler, the new co-head of investment banking at UBS was not necessarily a team builder.

Last week, Orcel hit back by bringing in a team of his own, from his former employer. He has hired six of his favourite bankers in Spain and Italy from his BAML team.

There were question marks yesterday as to whether, in doing so, Orcel might be in breach of a no-poaching agreement, though, as one insider noted, such things are often hard to prove.

“Did they approach him, did UBS do the chasing or was it a recruitment agent?” said one source. Certainly, it seems unlikely that BAML will contemplate legal action over Orcel’s daring move.

The UBS hires include BAML’s Spain investment banking country head Javier Oficialdegui and equity capital markets head Javier Martinez-Piqueras.

The UBS moves were remarkably accompanied by Orcel’s brother Riccardo (who worked at BAML before leaving to join Russia’s VTB Capital) poaching a handful of former colleagues from BAML’s Moscow office.

Such chutzpah from the Orcel brothers has inflamed tensions with BAML to a level rarely seen in investment banking.

But so far BAML insiders are playing down the impact of the poaching drive.

“Andrea’s just hired the people that were his water carriers,” was one familiar comment. As was: “Riccardo’s simply made some hires at associate level (ie, not very senior).”

Meanwhile, there are several key vacancies to be filled at BAML’s European investment bank.

The Moulds position of European President appears to have attracted one serious internal candidate, Rupert Hume-Kendall, who is chairman of global capital markets.

Adrian Mee is said to be an internal candidate to become the head of European investment banking but many insiders expect an external candidate to be appointed to this role.

And the appointment of a new head of UK corporate broking, where there has been an exodus of three of the most senior members of the team in the past few months, is said to be close. This hire could not come soon enough, with Marcus Jackson, a junior director, becoming the latest to jump ship.

Again an external appointment is considered likely.

The message from BAML is that it is time to move forward. But the Orcel brothers have shown it is still sensible to do so whilst looking over your shoulder at the same time.

david.hellier@cityam.com

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