Goldman Banker Diaspora Offers Hiring Opportunity, Bok Says

  • European banks remain ‘fertile ground,’ Greenhill CEO says
  • Bok says even the best banks have dealmakers seeking to leave

Boutique investment banks are finding more opportunities to hire from giant U.S. rivals, said Scott Bok, the chief executive officer of Greenhill & Co.

European banks remain “a relatively fertile ground” for recruiting as their leaders work to cut costs amid declining revenue, Bok said Tuesday at a conference held by Credit Suisse Group AG. “But I would also say that even at the most successful firms -- even the Goldman Sachses and the JPMorgans of the world -- there’s a constant kind of organizational change” that pushes some bankers to look for new opportunities where they can work on mergers and acquisitions.

Bok on Monday announced the hiring of Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s Richard Phillips as co-head of Greenhill Australia and vice-chairman of the firm globally. New York-based Greenhill last year added former Goldman managing director Steve Mayer to oversee operations in Canada.

Independent banks such as Greenhill, Lazard Ltd. and Perella Weinberg Partners have for years been adding dealmakers who built up their client lists and experience at larger firms. Evercore Partners Inc. announced in November that it was adding former Goldman executive John S. Weinberg as executive chairman and awarded him a $94 million pay package for five years.

Banker Compensation

Pay “has not rebounded to anything like what it once was” at big Wall Street firms, Bok said. “The comp ratio came down, and I bet there are all kinds of reasons for that. But my point is even at the best firms, you can find people who are not content and think they’d be better off on our platform.”

Bok sought to set Goldman and JPMorgan Chase & Co., both based in New York, apart from other banks that are losing talent because they are “struggling.” He didn’t identify faltering rivals by name. The CEO did say that even in a well-run firm, there are often promotions or other staff shifts that leave quality bankers feeling left out.

At a huge firm, “you can be a great M&A banker, and have a great M&A banker three offices down from you,” he said. “And one of you is going to get the promotion to run the group, to run the region, to run the sub-sector. The guy who didn’t, very often doesn’t want to stay.”

Leslie Shribman, a spokeswoman for Goldman Sachs, didn’t immediately return an e-mail seeking comment.

Greenhill has gained 24 percent in the past 12 months in New York trading, trailing the 53 percent really at Goldman. Bok’s company slipped 20 cents to $30 at 4:15 p.m.

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