- Hiring is white hot for credit traders at Wall Street banks.
- Stellar 2020 performance and pent-up hiring demand from the pandemic is spurring activity.
- Insider has tracked nearly 50 moves at top banks so far this year.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
After a record-breaking year in 2020, credit traders at Wall Street banks are changing seats in droves — catalyzed by a mix of pent-up demand and fortuitous timing.
While it’s not unusual for traders to shop their services to rival banks after bonus season, the level of churn on credit desks in 2021 is intense compared with previous years, according to industry recruiters. Insider has tracked nearly 50 hires and departures at the VP level and higher at top banks including Bank of America, Barclays, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, Morgan Stanley, RBC, UBS and Wells Fargo. The tally is not exhaustive.
In part, the fevered pace is a byproduct of hiring freezes implemented during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic at many banks, which were reluctant to execute key hires remotely.
At the banks, “people couldn’t get their head around the
hiring. The buy-side got it right away,” one senior fixed-income recruiter told Insider.
That created a backlog of hiring mandates for the banks, not to mention a large crop of sales and trading personnel eager to move.
“With all the pent-up demand from people working from home, we’ve seen an enormous amount of movement the first six months of the year,” Michael Nelson, a managing director with executive search firm Quest Group, told Insider.
Banks are also flush with cash to pursue ambitious upgrades.
Credit was one of the strongest performers across trading desks last year, as intervention from the
, wide movements in spreads, and an onslaught of debt issuance spurred client activity. At the largest banks, industry revenues in credit soared to $19.1 billion, up from $12.6 billion in 2019, according to industry data and consulting firm Coalition.
“The industry is coming off a record year,” Nelson said. “It’s allowed some institutions to take advantage of that lucrative year and beef up their businesses.”
Compounding that dynamic, traders have plenty of motivation to entertain offers. Even if they received great compensation this year, performance will almost certainly drop compared with a frothy 2020. So rather than wait around for a smaller bonus, some see the logic of locking in a juicy guarantee while demand is hot, according to senior headhunters.
“They had ridiculously high revenue last year, and it’s not going to match this year,” the senior fixed-income recruiter said. “They’re capitalizing on big comp numbers.”
Then there are wild card factors adding to the frenzy.
HSBC was only too happy to capitalize on the Swiss bank’s pain. After an exodus in its own credit division, HSBC surprised many with a hiring spree, including lifting star junk-bond trader Chris Bathon and his team from Credit Suisse.
“You’ve got all of these tier-2 firms coming in with bids, and that shakes things up,” a senior headhunter said.
Lastly, some buy-side institutions have poached top performers, creating vacancies. John Cortese, US cohead of credit at Barclays and one of the Street’s top junk-bond traders, left to run global credit trading at Apollo after Zachariah Barratt decamped for Citadel. Also joining Apollo is Earl Hunt, a Goldman Sachs partner who specialized in leveraged finance sales.
Earlier this year, star index credit trader Shawn Joshi left Morgan Stanley for Compass Rose Asset Management.
Headhunters expect the white-hot hiring in credit to continue. One said the “windstorm of activity” will only beget more hiring.
“I don’t think it’s winding down,” the fixed-income recruiter said. “I think enough movement started that there has to be musical chairs now.”
This database of credit trading hires and departures will be updated periodically with new information.
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