There are VPs out there who are doing the job of associates

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Things have definitely taken a turn for the worse in investment banking. In the third quarter, investment banking fees at JPMorgan fell to their lowest level since 2005 and dealmaking in EMEA was at its lowest since the first quarter of 2010.

However, this does not mean some people are not busy.

A lack of done deals does not mean a lack of pitching for deals, with all its attendant work on pitchbooks. And some sectors, such as energy and power - which accounted for 20% of all EMEA M&A work by value this year according to Thomson Reuters - have been very active.

M&A recruiters say this is creating problems. Busy MDs and VPs want to hire more juniors to assist them, but are disallowed from doing so by hiring freezes. Teams are being squeezed as a result.

Recently hired associates are understood to have been especially targeted in recent redundancies, suggesting their work is being reallocated most frequently.

"There are VPs out there who are doing the work of associates," says the head of one recruitment boutique. "People are fed up because they're overworked. If you're on the wrong team in this market, you're doing nothing but pitching."

However, another M&A recruiter disagrees. "What you find in this situation is that it's the analysts who are encouraged to step up and take on more of the associates' responsibilities," he says. "The analysts are getting absolutely killed and the VPs are just having to keep a closer eye on them."

Analysts who are sick of working 16 hour+ days and consecutive all-nighters do have other options, according to Logan Naidu, partner at The Cornell Partnership. "We're still surprisingly busy and have got mandates from boutiques, the buyside and corporates," he says.