Morning Coffee: UBS now wooing its pressured M&A bankers with different career paths. Ex-Deutsche Banker wants his bonus

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UBS has handed its frustrated M&A bankers a career lifeline by revealing that there are now two distinct ways to reach senior management positions at the bank. You can be a big swinger with clients (and spend much of your life meeting them), but you can still take a managerial (i.e. not so client-facing) route to the top, according to a memo sent to UBS staff by investment banking chief executive Andrea Orcel.

The news comes just weeks after the Swiss firm angered many of its senior bankers by commanding country-specific M&A and underwriting MDs to have 300 face-to-face meetings each year, in a drive to increase dealmaking and reverse several successive miserable quarters in M&A. The meetings target for the rest of UBS’s MDs is still substantial at 250.

Setting a broad goal to increase client interaction is common enough in investment banking, but strictly enforcing client-meeting numbers is not. UBS’s meetings-driven culture also has practical consequences: bankers must now spend more time on the road. In short, it’s got tougher to be an MD at UBS, while those lower down the ranks can see that life won’t get any easier as they become more senior.

Until very recently UBS seemed unbothered by any fallout from its new strategy. Those who didn’t like it were welcome to leave. “Yes, some people may be too comfortable for the focused, high-performance environment we’ve created. We wish them well elsewhere,” the bank told Bloomberg last week.

Orcel’s new memo, which was reported by Financial News, does reinforce UBS’s meetings-focused strategy: client-facing MDs are given more opportunities at the firm. In a newly created “alternate career track”, they can now pursue promotions to the roles of vice-chair and executive vice-chair, where they can influence the firm’s strategy but still remain as dealmakers.

However, in a statement that will bring some relief to UBS bankers wanting to step away from a client-driven existence, Orcel has at least now left the door open for MDs to choose a traditional career path and become group heads and heads of business. In the meantime, if you’re an MD in M&A who hasn’t snagged a senior management promotion, you are advised to keep your calendar suitably full of client meetings.

Separately, yet another banker is embroiled in court proceedings – but this time he’s doing the suing. Nizar Al-Bassam, a former head of corporate and DCM finance at Deutsche Bank, is trying to reclaim bonuses totalling about $4.7m, reports Bloomberg. He claims the German firm withheld the deferred compensation after an investigation into his recruitment practices in Russia and the UK dating back several years. Al-Bassam believes Deutsche has since abandoned its misconduct claims against him and no longer has the right to hold onto his bonus payment.


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Image credit: SIphotography, Getty

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