Banks are losing oil traders, but not replacing them

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Commodities trading houses are poaching banks' oil traders with promises of larger, or at least non-regulated, bonuses. However, despite the departures, most banks are still reluctant to recruit.

In recent months, banks have seen something of an exodus of talent from their oil trading desks.

Both Gareth Walsh and Grant Williams left BarCap, with the latter resurfacing in Cargill's gasoline trading team. Meanwhile, Patrick Latham, a fuel oil trader at JP Morgan, has now joined RWE Trading and Panagiotis Koropoulis has left Standard Chartered, where he was head of distillates trading.

Glencore, Trafigura and EGL Group have also all hired for their oil trading teams recently.

"Banks are hampered by restrictions on the bonuses they can pay their traders, and physical commodity trading houses have been instrumental in capitalising on this," says one oil trading recruiter who declined to be named.

Rather obviously, this means that banks have gaps to fill on their oil trading desks, yet headhunters suggest that few have any sort of appetite to recruit currently.

Morgan Stanley and Citi have indicated they may bolster their team in the coming months, suggest recruiters, but the likes of BarCap, Deutsche Bank and Bank of America Merrill Lynch are all holding off hiring.

The oil price spike earlier in the year worked to some banks' advantage - BNP Paribas, for instance, said that the high oil price had bolstered client appetite for energy derivatives. But the recent vicious turbulence in the market has scared away investors and stunted appetite for any sort of energy commodities recruitment.

"Many banks' energy trading divisions have performed well so far this year, and there's room for expansion in their teams," says Greg Beszant, head of commodities at Selby Jennings. "We're hopeful that recruitment will kick-off in the second half of the year."

It seems at least that banks are willing to pay more for commodities professionals. US compensation consultants Johnson Associates is predicting a 10-15% rise in fixed income bonuses this year, largely down to strong results in commodities.

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