Threaten to quit and you might get promoted, just ask UBS

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Looking to get promoted? Instead of trying to win over your boss, you could always walk.

Look no further than UBS's Sam Kendall, who wanted to jump to Bank of America Merrill Lynch. UBS counter offered, promoting him to head of ECM for Asia and he's now staying put, reports Reuters. Kendall, who is based in Hong Kong, will hold on to his position as head of ECM syndicate and global head of blocks.

Recruiters we spoke to say promotions tagged onto counter offers aren't all that rare, especially if you are senior (read: MD level and above).

One Hong Kong-based recruiter, who preferred to stay anonymous, says: "Banks are always trying to retain the best people especially since there are not that many ECM specialists in the region. Sam has a fantastic reputation so that's why the bank is trying to retain him."

You must be wanted

Counter offers are "not unusual" if you work in a talent-short field. Investment bankers with strong Asian relationships, particularly in sectors like natural resources, energy and FIG are most likely to get propositioned.

Banks typically vary their counter offers depending on the candidate's rank. Hubert Tam, managing partner, Sirius Partners, says: "For senior staff they will often counter offer with more responsibility. With less senior staff, banks will offer a mixture of compensation increment and involvement in higher-level business strategy."

Money isn't everything

Our anonymous recruiter speculates that while Kendall should have received a raise with his promotion, it isn't likely to be a hefty 50 per cent jump. "He's staying probably because he's after a bigger role and more responsibility."

From a bank's perspective, keeping your top guys happy can make practical sense. Tam, who's seen more counter offers in i-banking in the last two years, says: "In most cases it will be more beneficial for the firm to make a counter offer, because otherwise it can take up to nine to 12 months before a suitable candidate can be found."

Stay or go?

It really depends on who you are asking. Tam advises: "It depends on each individual. Counter offers are only effective if the bank can offer what the candidate wants in the long term."

Our anonymous recruiter, however, isn't a fan. He reckons everyone will eventually get wind that the candidate's promotion came via threatening to leave, which doesn't make for pleasant working or good staff morale.

Still, that's probably better than being in the shoes of John Sturmey, who was up until Kendall's promotion the de facto ECM chief at UBS. He has been stripped of his role as co-head of global capital markets in Asia, reports Reuters.

While the recruiters we spoke to didn't know what Sturmey's situation was, our source says it's the same restructuring UBS typically does every two years.

Wanted to leave the bank and got offered a promotion instead? Leave us your comments below. Got a news lead we should follow up on? Email us at

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