Headhunters report rumblings of discontent at Barclays Capital, and the possibility of job losses at the bank later this year.
"There are some unhappy people at Barclays," says one derivatives-focused recruiter. "Recent hires have been paid top dollar, and the incumbents are increasingly hacked off."
Under the so-called 'Alpha Plan' of chief executive Bob Diamond, Barclays Capital has added 3,200 staff over the past two years, and continues to hire aggressively for areas such as commodities.
The bank has a policy of ring-fencing the funds used to lure new staff in order to avoid depleting the bonus pool for existing employees, but the recruiter says long serving employees are starting to question its effectiveness: "The management may say guaranteed bonuses paid to new staff are ring fenced, but there's a growing feeling that this is rubbish. The money has to come from somewhere."
He says discontent is greatest among people who came in on hefty guarantees a few years ago, and have seen bonuses drop considerably this year. "People were hired from Goldman Sachs at a 30% premium to the market, but that premium has now disappeared."
Another search consultant operating in the area says discontent at Bar Cap is being compounded by rumours of redundancies to come. "Barclays are preparing to cut underperformers, particularly at analyst and associate level," he says.
Diamond is said to be copying a strategy employed by Edson Mitchell, former head of global markets at Deutsche Bank and his erstwhile classmate, who encouraged internal competition at Deutsche in the late 1990s with a view to sifting out underperformers.
"Diamond has overhired," says the consultant. "If he needs 15 people, he'll hire 20 with a view to cutting the underperformers once the bank reaches a certain point of growth and market penetration. We're nearly at that point."
Not everyone agrees with this view, however. "Barclays have certainly hired a lot of people and now have one of the largest salesforces around. But it is justified by their volume of business," says a recruiter.
Suggestions of imminent redundancies follow a report in Derivatives Week claiming that Barclays Capital has combined its credit and interest sales teams, prompting the departure of two senior credit staff.
A spokeswoman for Barclays Capital declined to comment.