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Headhunters make hay in Russian winter

The temperature in Moscow has plummeted to well below freezing in recent weeks but the battle to land the best available investment banking talent is raging white hot as firms snap up experienced personnel whom – they hope at least – will boost their share in one of the world’s most lucrative markets.

To take just one example, the equity pipeline for Russia this year is conservatively estimated at $30 billion – a figure that dwarfs the projected volumes from the rest of emerging Europe. The same holds true for debt capital markets and M&A.

While in the rest of the region the global titans invariably win out in the competition to attract the brightest stars in the investment banking firmament, the growing financial might and ambition of Russian firms means that it is often the local players who are winning the fight to land the banking elite.

In-mid February, for example, Ed Kaufman, head of Russia for UBS – widely seen as the best of the foreign outfits – jumped ship to join Alfa Bank. The price? A reported $20 million over two years. Guaranteed. Yes, that’s right, guaranteed. To his credit even Kaufman himself was moved to describe the package as very generous. "We’re seeing a very aggressive hiring environment in Russia at the moment as banks seek to secure the services of the very limited number of key relationship bankers," says Taru Oksman-Ison, a partner at executive search firm Principal Search in London.

UBS is by no means alone in losing out to Russian firms in the scramble to recruit staff, however.

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