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Inside Credit Suisse: "You can see the fear in some juniors' faces; senior people have been here before"

Even late last Friday, things weren't looking promising at Credit Suisse. But when we spoke to one senior insider who'd worked at the bank for over two decades, he said some people were bearing up better than others. 

"A lot of us have been here before," he said. "Many were at Lehman or Bear Stearns or Merrill Lynch. We know how it goes - things look dire, there's a change of ownership, and then you carry on at Barclays or JPMorgan or Bank of America." 

It's an approach that could serve some directors and managing directors well as they wait to see what comes of the takeover by UBS. Junior Credit Suisse bankers, however, have no such experiences to refer to. "It's much harder for them," said the Credit Suisse director. "It's brutal - you can see the fear on their faces."

For junior bankers who came into the industry during the pandemic, the Credit Suisse UBS merger is the latest in a series of traumas that began with the collapse in investment banking revenues last year and have segued into what might have been called a banking crisis but was looking less tempestuous this evening as bank shares recovered from their earlier sell-off. 

The impact on jobs from the UBS takeover remains unclear. In some areas, it's business as usual until the merger is completed, something which may take up to the end of the year. But UBS has said Credit Suisse's sales and trading business will be moved into a bad bank (presumably to be wound down) and while Credit Suisse's US M&A bankers are seen as a valuable addition, European M&A bankers replicate UBS's existing talent. "Europe is going to be a very tricky place to be at Credit Suisse in M&A," says one headhunter. "People we've spoken to there are being told there may be a place for them, but they're also told they should think about a plan B."

Headhunters say Credit Suisse juniors have been sending in CVs today. "People will go wherever they can find an opportunity," said one. However, Andy Pringle at recruitment firm Circle Square, said some CS insiders are playing a longer game. "It's a bit like when Lehman went down - some people will get their CVs out immediately, but others will wait around and see if they can join Nomura." It can make sense to hang on, says Pringle - at the very least, you'll get a months' extra pay, plus severance. 

Insiders say Credit Suisse did its best to reward its junior bankers for 2022 in what was a difficult bonus round. This was visible in the recent compensation report from Litquidity which showed Credit Suisse juniors being paid on a par with some US banks. In sales and trading, Credit Suisse insiders tell us directors and managing directors took a "massive hit" on their bonuses so that juniors could be well rewarded. 

If you want to leave Credit Suisse now, headhunters say there are jobs to go to. Lazard and Greenhill are still understood to be recruiting juniors in Europe. Firms like Ducera Partners are still scouting for talent in the US.

It's not easy though. "It's very sad," observes Meridith Fiedler Dennes at New York recruitment firm Harrison Rush Group of the rush of junior resumes coming out of Credit Suisse. "It is a really challenging market right now," she adds. "Banks are hiring opportunistically, but they are being incredibly selective. Most managers want to see candidates with both M&A and industry experience. It is really difficult to change industries. Folks who have been jumpers or with light deal experience are not even getting interviews."

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor

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