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Barclays' US banker exodus reflects big bid for top M&A talent

While most US bankers have been thinking about Memorial Day weekend, the debt ceiling or the ongoing dearth of deals, Barclays' top US investment bankers have something else on their minds: leaving for high-paying jobs elsewhere. 

The latest Barclays bankers to act upon this impulse are John Miller, Barclays' former co-head of investment banking, plus two managing directors Kurt Kohlmeyer and Richard Siegel. All three have joined Jefferies. They follow the exits of at least 10 other Barclays MDs for UBS in the past few weeks. 

It's not clear how much Jefferies paid for Miller, Kohlmeyer and Siegel, but they're unlikely to have come cheaply. Bloomberg's calculations show Jefferies ranking 17th for US M&A year-to-date, while Barclays ranks ninth. Enticing senior bankers to move to a smaller platform invariably necessitates a generous financial incentive, typically in the form of a multi-year guaranteed bonus. Equally, the three men's long tenure (Miller had been at Barc for 17 years and Kohlmeyer and Siegel had each been there for 14), suggests that moving them would have required a buyout of their accumulated deferred stock.

Jefferies isn't the only bank paying big money for big bankers. There are suggestions that Santander paid as much as $20m in the form of a two year $10m guaranteed package and a $10m buyout of his restricted stock, for former Credit Suisse M&A head Steve Geller alone when it poached him earlier this month. Santander didn't respond to a request to comment on its alleged generosity.

The Barclays bankers who've just left for Jefferies have a notable point of commonality with the Barclays bankers who left recently for UBS: they all came from Lehman Brothers originally. As we've noted here before, Lehman veterans at the British bank are unhappy with the fact that former Credit Suisse banker Cathal Deasy was parachuted in as their new boss when Miller was demoted to mere chairman of investment banking in January. Their preference was reportedly for another ex-Lehmanite, Marco Valla, to lead them instead. 

Valla, however, has defected to UBS (seemingly on another big package). Further Barclays exits, on further generous guarantees - both to Jefferies and UBS (and maybe even Deutsche Bank and Lazard) - are expected.

Photo by Viacheslav Bublyk on Unsplash

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor

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