Spike in M&A Activity Could Open Doors to Hiring

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Following a near five-year hiatus, robust M&A activity has returned in 2013, and with it the potential of hiring in an industry that has seen significant workforce reductions since the birth of the economic crisis.

“We have been experiencing a very significant pickup in activity on the hiring front the last month,” said Adam Zoia, CEO of Glocap, a New York-based executive search firm. M&A, hedge fund and private equity hiring have all increased, said Zoia.

Private German bank Berenberg plans to expand its London staff – including its corporate advice, equities and private banking businesses – by 50 in the next year, according to the Financial Times. The bank didn’t respond to earlier requests for comment.

U.S. advisory firm Evercore Partners, coming off a record-breaking 2012, increased its headcount by 34 last year, and said in January that it will look to end 2013 with a higher number of senior managing directors. Citi also wants to hire ‘up to ten’ senior bankers, according to Financial Times.

Industry sources who asked not to be named cited U.S.-based Mystic Capital Advisors as a potential landing spot for displaced M&A bankers. The firm, which focuses on mergers & acquisitions in the insurance marketplace, just named a new head of its London arm, and is said to be staffing up in The City. The company didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Boutiques such as Roberston Robey Associates, run by the former chairman of global M&A at Morgan Stanley, and Zaoui Capital, the boutique firm founded by Michael and Yoel Zaoui, both previously senior M&A bankers at Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, are also said to be hiring.

Rafael Brana, a Hong Kong-based associate at search Bo Le Associates, is having dialogues with several M&A firms in advance of future hiring plans.

“It’s not gangbusters hiring; we won’t see M&A teams increase by 20% or even 10% this year,” Brana told eFC. “But the big international i-banks are keen to ‘upgrade’ in M&A – either by replacing people who leave with stronger talent, or by opportunistically hiring a small number of senior, proven bankers.”

Royal Bank of Canada is also primed to make M&A hires, according to one source.  A spokesperson declined to comment.

Peter Laughter, CEO at search firm Wall Street Services, reports seeing an increase in requests for professionals with valuation analysis experience in the U.S., while declining to name specific firms that are hiring.

Big M&A hires so far in 2013 include veteran dealmaker Luigi de Vecchi, a former Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs banker, who was named the chair of Citi’s corporate and investment banking in continental Europe. Standard Chartered this week hired former Royal Bank of Scotland exec Tom Emmet to head its mergers and acquisitions business in the Middle East and North Africa. Goldman Sachs, meanwhile, now has co-heads of global M&A after appointing Gregg Lemkau to work alongside Gene Sykes, who has held the role solely since last year.

It’s easy to see why M&A hiring might be picking up.  Headlined by deals made for Heinz, Dell and American Airlines, high-dollar mergers and acquisitions have returned, particularly in the U.S. Nearly $390 billion worth of global M&A deals were struck from Jan. 1 through Feb. 15 of this year, up 35% from the same period a year ago, according to Dealogic. The U.S. accounted for an eye-opening $220 billion worth of deals, up 144% over the same period in 2012. That’s the highest total during the first seven weeks of the year since before the economic collapse.

The sense of optimism isn’t shared by all, though. Ross Baltic, managing partner at Mercury Partners, a New York-boutique search firm, said he has yet to see a rush of hiring in M&A. It’s “likely too soon to see any changes filter down just yet.”

Eric Weber, chief operating officer at M&A advisory Freeman & Co., provides a more stark analysis. Significant hiring in the M&A world likely won’t occur anytime soon due to continued overcapacity in the market, said Weber. Out of work M&A bankers looking for jobs may have to wait a while longer before they can find new jobs easily.

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