Has UBS become the most political bank to work for?

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Political infighting and banking go together like hair transplants and Italian presidents, but not every bank is as political as the next. Historically, UBS wasn't the most political place to work. That seems to have changed.

The departure of Simon Warshaw, one of UBS's most senior M&A bankers in Europe, looks a little like fallout from UBS's politicization. Warshaw's departure was first announced by Financial News yesterday. Having spent 27 years with a company he joined as a graduate recruit. it seemed that Warshaw had had enough. He's rumoured to be joining a small firm or setting up his own little advisory kiosk. The Independent pointed out that Warshaw would have earned millions in fees by advising on the recent Vodafone-Verizon deal and posited that he was off for a pleasant retirement.

Scrape the surface, however, and there may be more to Warshaw's exit than the timely bowing out of an M&A veteran. His work for the Vodafone-Verizon deal won't be rewarded until UBS bonuses are paid in February-March 2014, making it unclear why he's leaving now. And having been promoted to global co-head of M&A for UBS in 2011 by Carsten Kengeter, Warshaw 'stepped down' in November 2011 when new boss Andrea Orcel announced a shakeup of the investment bank and the removal of 10,000 jobs. In April 2013 Orcel hired senior M&A banker William Vereker from Nomura on an allegedly huge package, ostensibly to oversee M&A and capital markets in Europe - once Warshaw's beat.

It's entirely possible that Warshaw left of his own accord and with gentlemanly timing after the deal he was working on was over. It's also possible that he's negotiated an exit with UBS and will be receiving his bonus ex-post. However, it also looks a little like one of the old guard UBS Warburg bankers has decided to quit following the arrival of a new CEO who's shaken up the bank and appointed his own man. That's a shame: Warshaw is a big fee earner. Have politics come before performance at UBS?