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Last year was a boom year for US M&A rainmaker hiring

It's not an entirely happy time to be a managing director in US M&A. M&A revenues at all the major US banks globally were down in 2022, and US M&A bankers' bonuses fell accordingly. At Bank of America yesterday, one headhunter says the decline was anything from 20% to 70%.

For all the pain, though, 2022 seems to have been a boom year for M&A rainmaker hiring.

Julian Bell, the New York-based regional head of search firm Sheffield Haworth, has been crunching the US managing director (MD) hiring numbers. He says tier one banks hired 49 new M&A MDs in the Americas last year, an increase of 63% on 2021.

The rise reflects the need for people who can bring in business in a difficult market, says Bell. "Even in a weak year the benefits of hiring good people in investment banking is worth it on a two to three year assessment and in an extremely competitive business you have to hire some people to stay level."

While M&A MD hiring boomed, hiring of MDs across broader investment banking roles, including equity and debt capital markets fell at major banks in 2022. Recruitment of investment banking MDs at the top 10-12 full service investment banks was down 27% on 2021, at 120 people, says Bell. 

While big banks crimped recruitment, however, boutiques kept hiring across the board. "Independent M&A boutique hiring was up about 30% year-on-year or maybe even more," Bell says. "This continues to demonstrate the draw that successful independent firms have at the moment compared to the full service firms."

Headhunters say the elite boutiques are still scooping up top staff in 2023. Anecdotally, they have also paid far more than big investment banks for last year.

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor

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