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

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

AUTHORShree Ann Mathavan Insider Comment
  • Sh
    29 April 2011

    As per the current market scenario companies are actually looking for when employee puts the papers, it would work for them like an opportunity and they are waiting for this opportunity, so it would not be wise to put papers if you do not have any other offers in hand.

    Due to the economic recession a couple of years ago, the still market is getting but many people are still looking out for jobs and employers will have this opportunity to leave the current high paid workers and look for needy.

  • Ed
    21 April 2011

    My advice to employers: If someone offers their resignation, accept it on the spot. They will only try the same stunt again in six months time, and you will lose them anyway.

    My advice to employees: If you threaten to quit - be prepared to quit.

  • gu
    20 April 2011

    I don't think this option will work for most of the people as banks are very smart. The case mentioned above seems to be very special case.
    I beleive this won't work for more than 5% of the cases who are extremely dear to the bosses. If it would have worked for more than 20% of the people, every quarter we will see lot of these cases.

  • Ra
    20 April 2011

    I wonder when we will have such scenarios in the Indian Banks and Indian corporate world where the middle level talents are also valued like this.

  • Be
    Been There
    19 April 2011

    Oftentimes giving notice is the only way to get your employer's attention. At the end of the day, it is about perceived net present value. Knowledge of a competing offer catalyses perception. No one is perfect and sometimes employers need a little help in seeing the value right underneath their noses. Good for Kendall. For Sturmey, not so much. Such is life in the shark tank where it is all about money. What, there's a better alternative?

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