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Leaving J.P. Morgan for Barclays isn't as easy at it used to be. How about leaving Goldman or Citi instead?

Has Barclays become the best alternative to working for a U.S. bank?

Can't get a job at a top tier U.S. investment bank? Maybe you should give Barclays a go? It's seemingly going through something of a renaissance.

"If you look beyond the U.S. investment banks, Barclays is now top of the pile," says one headhunter who works for the bank. "Historically it was Barclays or Deutsche, but Barclays is the big European heavyweight now."

While Deutsche would have something to say about this, and the headhunter is undoubtedly partial, there does seem to be some truth to this assertion. Dealogic's recent first half review for M&A and capital markets activity in the Americas shows the British bank coming sixth behind its U.S. rivals for investment banking fees for the first half of this year (Credit Suisse comes 7th, Deutsche comes 10th). Similarly, Barclays was the only European bank to feature on Greenwich Associates' most recent U.S. and global tables for fixed income market share table, for 2016. It's only in equities that Barclays lags, both in the U.S. and globally. And the bank is trying hard to do something about this.

Barclays declined to comment for this article. However, it's unquestionably making a splash. Led since January by ex-J.P. Morgan equities man Tim Throsby,  Barclays is understood to be in the process of adding between 50 and 100 people to its investment bank, seemingly with a focus on the markets division. It's already hired 20 equities professionals in London this year, including Rupert Jones from Morgan Stanley as head of equity research, Graham Wayne from KCG as a senior product person in electronic trading, Andrew Alder from Instinet for electronic sales trading, and James Sylvester Evans from Morgan Stanley for portfolio sales and trading. Concurrent fixed income hires include Asita Anche, the Goldman quant trader, who joins this month as head of markets quantitative e-trading and data science, Filippo Zorzoli who joins from BAML as head of EMEA macro distribution, Shrut Kalra, who joined from Goldman Sachs to build out the CLO franchise, Kristen Macleod, who joined from GS in U.S. FX sales, and Chris Leonard who joined from a hedge fund as head of U.S. rates trading. 

For a bank that latterly boasted of its ability to cut headcount by freezing hiring, Barclays seems to be making up for lost time. It also seems to be hiring from some big name rivals.

Headhunters working for the bank are certainly keen to talk it up. "Barclays has become an interesting sell," says one. "It's in growth mode and there's an interesting story there. In Jes Staley, you have someone with an investment banking background running the whole bank and in Tim Throsby you have someone with an equities background running the investment bank. It's a good place to work. Good management. Good set-up, Good technology. They're able to be discerning about who they hire."

Headhunters who aren't working for the bank hold a rather different opinion. The point to the various big-name exits from Barclays this year (Eg. Joe Mecane,  Neal Hallett, Carsten Keller and Timo Tatzel, an electronic sales trader who's allegedly gone to Goldman Sachs.) These naysayers suggest most of the recent hires are simply gap-filling. More damningly, they claim that Barclays' poor bonuses are dissuading some senior U.S. bankers from joining, and that even though Barclays has eliminated 100% deferred bonuses for its managing directors it's unable to pay the kinds of two year guaranteed bonuses that are back in fashion at U.S. banks on Wall Street.

"Barclays paid well below the line for the past couple of years compared to U.S. banks," says one London headhunter, speaking on condition of anonymity. "I wouldn't say they always have the pick of the crop, particularly in equities."  A U.S. equities headhunter agrees: "Barclays is trying to attract people with big titles rather than multi-year pay deals," he says.

Of course, not everyone who wants to leave a U.S. bank for Barclays may be able to do so. As the Financial Times reported, Barclays promised to stop poaching J.P. Morgan bankers last October. The U.S. Department of Justice is now looking at whether this breached antitrust laws.


Photo credit: Barclays by Gideon Benari is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor

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