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Tribal warfare in North America

Why did Deutsche Bank gut Bankers Trust’s richest business – US bonds – and hire a new team from Merrill Lynch? Surely that’s no way to establish a new presence in North America. But such criticism ignores the tribalism that rules these amalgamated global banks, and maybe it was the quickest way to forge team loyalty.

Six equity analysts in New York are now out of a job. In mid-February Deutsche Bank Securities, the US division of the investment bank, decided to fire them. Eighteen months ago that would have been taken as yet further evidence of how the German parent's love affair with investment banking was coming to an end.

In July 1998 Frank Quattrone had just taken his entire technology investment banking team - over 120 people - to CSFB, Deutsche's Europe-first policy was regarded as forget-US, and investment bankers were worried that they were losing out in the battle for control, to the Vorstand and the German commercial bankers.

It was no different in debt capital markets. "A lot of people outside the firm interpreted the so-called "Europe First" policy as Europe only and were telling our clients we had given up on the US market," says Grant Kvalheim, global head of debt capital markets at Deutsche, and also co-head of global markets North America. "And so did a number of people at the firm, as a result of which we lost some people, and hiring was very difficult."

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