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Is Andrea Orcel paying $50m for the pleasure of a new banking job?

If you want a senior job in investment banking, it helps to really, really love the industry. So said Goldman Sachs' former head of M&A Gregg Lemkau last year (by virtue of his enthusiasm Lemkau didn't seem to age all that much during his time at Goldman), and so has said Andrea Orcel in the past. But does Orcel love the industry so much that he's prepared to pay work in it? 

This is the question as Orcel joins UniCredit as CEO. Last time we looked, he still had as much as €55m ($67m) invested in the UBS long-term incentive scheme, all of which he stood to forfeit if he went to work for another bank. This seems to have fallen to $50m and was of course, the sticking point in his failed attempt to join Santander. Orcel's ability to keep his UBS stock this time around is reportedly under discussion, but if he's not willing to walk away, or Unicredit's not willing to buy him out, or there's not the possibility of a compromise, then why announce his appointment at all?

The suspicion has to be that after a few years learning mixed martial arts, teaching his now 10 year-old daughter to ride a bike, training a puppy and paying someone to fiddle with his Wikipedia page, Orcel wants to get back in the saddle. Sitting at home, collecting yearly installments of millions of dollars isn't enough when you're used to 4am starts and midnight stops, to being loved by clients, starring at Davos, and being known as the 'dealmaker of a generation.'

Was Orcel's identity so bound up in banking, that he's willing to forego what might seem like a good deal to anyone else (sitting at home being paid millions to do nothing) simply to work again?

We will, at some point, find out. In the meantime, Orcel seems to stand in contrast to Mohamed El-Erian, the former CEO of Pimco. El-Erian famously quit his in September 2014 after his daughter presented him with a list of all her life events he'd missed. “I was getting up at 2.45am every morning, getting to work at 4 o’clock in the morning and getting back late in the evening,”  El-Erian said on a BBC radio program earlier this month. He has no regrets. "I made the decision to leave and that’s really important," El-Erian added. "Most people don’t leave, in fact the press is full of stories of people who overstay their time in the private sector because they are just pursuing income and wealth and they lose complete touch with reality.”

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor

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