Tough times: investment bankers are switching to wealth management

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In 2009, when investment banks were making thousands of redundancies, wealth management was considered something of a sanctuary from the cuts. We're not quite back to those bleak times, but in the wake of heavy job cuts, more people are now considering the switch.

Both Credit Suisse and UBS have unveiled plans for extensive job cuts in recent weeks. Wealth management certainly isn't sheltered from these plans, but it's less affected than investment banking divisions.

UBS has ruled out redundancies to financial advisers in its wealth management Americas division, and also hired 100 people into its Asian private bank over the last two months.

Even better (depending on your point of view), according to reports, UBS also recently transferred 280 investment bankers across to its wealth management division. Barclays Wealth, which is still heavily recruiting this year, is also encouraging people to switch into private banking from other industries and sectors through its Embark programme.

Generally, more investment bankers are looking towards the sector, suggest recruiters.

"If they're coming from an advisory function, investment bankers are shrewd, have great financial product knowledge and are generally good salesmen - it therefore makes sense for them to switch across," says Christian Sulger Buel, director of wealth management headhunters Sulger Buel & Co. "Generally, the type of advice they can offer is more suited to entrepreneurial, rather than traditional, clients. The switch has become increasingly common in recent months, however."

In the larger wealth managers, where pressure to cross-sell products from other business areas is increasingly common, it's perhaps easier to switch sectors than into boutique operations.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks, however, is pay. Most investment bankers are demanding a base salary of between 150-175k, suggests Stephen Heal, CEO of private banking recruiters HB International. If they're relatively senior, investment bankers are taking a pay cut, but few private banks will pay so much for someone without direct industry experience, he says.

"You also have to question their motivation for making the switch - Are they burnt out? Can they simply not find investment banking work and will move back as soon as the market turns? Plus, an accomplished career in corporate finance or M&A is no guarantee of success in private banking," he adds.

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