Up and coming investment bank receives 420 applications per job - and it's still hiring

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Few large investment banks are actively building in London currently, but German institution Berenberg is in the midst of an expansion plan. It’s building in equity research and sales, making forays into fixed income and expanding its private bank.

Earlier this year, the Hamburg based bank announced plans to hire ten people into its equity research team, a bold statement when most other banks were scaling back in this area. As of October, it’s already exceeded this target. “We hired so many, which was more than planned,” concedes Laura Janssens, co-head of equity research at Berenberg. The bank has hired almost 40 people for jts London office this year.

In the UK, Berenberg has a research and sales business, but the trading floor is located in its Hamburg headquarters. It covers around 500 European stocks, and currently has a headcount of 180 people in London, a figure that continues to rise. “Five more people are due to start in the next couple of weeks,” said Janssens. It’s already hired its first fixed income sales person in London: Alexandru Toroican joined Berenberg from Mitsubishi UJF in July.

While publicly-listed investment banks adopt a hire and fire mentality, coming under pressure from shareholders to cut costs during tough times, Berenberg is privately owned and says that it’s building for the long term. The von Berenberg family has a 30.4% stake and a holding company partially owned by the head of investment banking Hendrik Riehmer has 25.4%.

It also has plans to increase its private banking team from 10 to 15 people in London.

2,100 applications for five roles

Berenberg isn’t all about hiring senior bankers, it’s also hiring more and more juniors for its London operation and ran its first summer internships programme this year.

Having an intern attached to your desk isn’t an overly appealing prospect for many bankers working in bulge bracket banks, says Janssens, who worked for UBS and Merrill Lynch previously. “Here, however, it’s a real asset – people are very keen to have an intern working for them.”

As well as the internships, the bank also runs an analyst program for its London ECM business. It began with five analysts three years ago, seven analysts in the following year and now involves ten graduates. “In 2014 it will be probably more”, said Janssens. Because of the growing number of senior staff in equity research and sales they need to take on more analysts.

Competition for places is intense – 2,100 applications were received, or 420 for every available spot. While large investment banks tend to assign new analysts to one desk from the outset, Berenberg rotates its analysts across ECM, sales, fixed income and its trading based in Hamburg over the course of 15 months. Applications are open for the 2014 programme from January.

Not much use for headhunters

Headhunters are likely to be picking up the phone as they read this article, but it’s worth noting that Berenberg does the majority of its recruitment in-house. For this task Berenberg hired Alexandra Luxford, talent acquisition manager. She has previously worked at JP Morgan, Barclays and BNP Paribas, hiring for the front office. Luxford maintains a large network to sales and research staff in London and elsewhere.

Berenberg only uses headhunters for lateral hires in back office and middle office roles.  “We do the majority of our recruitment directly, we have saved a lot of money by not using headhunters and we are much more successful at identifying talent with this model”, said Luxford.

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