Is Paris the harshest city in the western world in which to be an M&A banker?

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Hemingway hung out in Paris catching fish in the Seine. Orwell hung out in Paris working as a dishwasher. Auster have lived in Paris before he became famous. But if you're an M&A banker in Paris, your life won't be simple and artistic: you may well be worked like a dog.

"If you work in M&A in Paris, they will kill you," says one French former junior M&A banker who's left the industry to do something more relaxing instead. "It's a small market and local banks like Rothschild, Lazard and BNP Paribas are all fighting for their share. You will do 30 hours work in two days."

Stephane Rambossen, a former M&A banker at Schroders in Paris turned head of search firm Veni Partners, says this is absolutely true: "You work much harder in Paris than London in M&A. France is the most competitive M&A market in the world - when I was there we worked until 12 every night and at least one all-nighter."

Figures from research provider Dealogic offer some insight into why the French M&A scene is so nightmarish for those involved. French targeted M&A has fallen nearly 50% since 2007 and although it's up nearly 100% this year, it's still down on 2011.

However, the real issue according to one French M&A banker is the sheer number of banks fighting over what is fundamentally a small market. French firms like BNP Paribas, Lazard, Rothschild are all jostling for space alongside big American players like Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and - most recently, Moelis. The same banks are present in the UK, but while the UK M&A market was worth $328m so far this year, French targeted M&A was just $154m.

To make matters worse, the culture in French banks is said to be extremely hierarchical, with overworked young M&A bankers deprived of contact with senior staff. "When you're at a French bank in Paris, the managing directors won't talk to anyone below vice president level," said one ex-analyst.

"It's absolutely true - French banks are incredibly hierarchical," said another French M&A banker. "At the US houses a lot of people have worked in London and New York and it's a lot more inclusive. Well-educated French people also have a bad tendency to work very long hours even when there's nothing to do," he added.

We asked BNP Paribas, Lazard and Rothschild for comment. Lazard declined and Rothschild and BNP were unable to immediately respond.

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