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Bank of America's EMEA equity derivatives business is getting some love

Bank of America may be cutting a few heads and keeping a lid on costs by failing to replace people who've left, but it's hiring too. Last year, it recruited 15,000 people, including many in European fixed income sales, where it doubled the size of the currency and commodities salesforce working with corporate clients in the two years to mid-2023 and hired 50% more staff across EMEA sales and trading.

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In 2024, it seems that BofA might moving on. Now, it's all about equities instead. 

Speaking to International Financing Review, Jim De Mare, the nice but competitive guy upscaling BofA's markets business, said that the bank is 'earlier' in its equities investments than its fixed income investments and that it has room to grow in EMEA equity derivatives trading and structured notes. 

BofA has already made some big equities hires. In September 2023, Nick Laux joined from Morgan Stanley as international head of equities trading. Matt Watson, Vincent Charvin and Maxime Ménard joined from Citi, Goldman Sachs and SocGen as global head of structured issuance, head of delta one sales for EMEA and head of Emea X-Asset third-party distribution sales respectively around the same time. Laux's arrival in particular looks like a step-up: insiders say there was no specific head of international equities trading at BofA before he joined and that the business was effectively run by Philippe Trouve out of Paris.

However, there were also various exits last year: Sasha Diklich, the bank's head of micro derivatives trading in London left after 10 years in August, along with Rafael Oskoui; various other senior people also left the EMEA equities business in May.  

While Jim De Mare runs Bank of America's markets business as a whole, the equities business specifically is run by Soofian Zuberi, who took over from the not entirely popular Fab Gallo in 2021. Some at the bank blame Gallo for the bank's comparative weakness in derivatives trading: "They made the strategic error of emphasizing flow over exotics in the mid 2010s," says one insider. "But exotics are where the margin is." 

Others blame churn at the top of BofA's EMEA equity derivatives trading business over the years. In 2018, for example, the bank was struck by a number of exits, including Whitfield Hines (head of EMEA equity derivatives flow sales), Guillaume Arnaud (head of EMEA solutions sales and structuring) and Roy Martins (head of global equity swaps distribution), Alexandre Fleury, global head of exotics trading, and Florent Sabot, head of exotic equity trading for EMEA and Asia. Andrew Mitchell, a former EMEA head of equities trading left for Jefferies in June 2020. "They haven't been very good at risk recycling," observes one former MD, adding that the French banks are "miles ahead."

While BofA's EMEA equity derivatives presence is lagging, senior figures from BofA's equities team in Europe say the bank is well-placed in other areas. Martina Slowey, the head of EMEA equities, is credited with building a strong prime broking presence, for example.  "The gap there isn't as gaping as in exotics," says one.

If BofA wants to succeed in exotics, former MDs suggest it will both need to make new hires and to upgrade its technology. "The competition is formidable," says one. "The technology in particular has been left behind."

Bank of America declined to comment. 

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor

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