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Why leave at this time of the year?

The bank whose teams seem to keep quitting before bonuses

As we reported last week, something curious seems to be afoot at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods (KBW), the investment bank that was acquired by Stifel Financial Corp in 2012. - We reported that the financial institutions group (FIG) team hired in 2018 disappeared before bonuses are paid. In fact, the FIG team's exit is just the tip of the iceberg.

Sources at the bank say parent company Stifel Financial has been hit by numerous departures in the past few weeks, many of them of staff on guaranteed bonuses. 

The disappearances include Duncan Sherriffs, who joined as a managing director in debt capital markets in September 2020 and was allegedly still on a guarantee. They also include Stuart Mills, head of financial sponsors, who was hired from HSBC in 2018 and who is understood to have left with his team. There's also COO John Owen, European head of legal, Kieran Rayani, plus various members of the UK fixed income team and a healthcare banker in Frankfurt. 

The exits seem curious given that Stifel is due to pay end of year bonuses soon and reputedly pays a lot of cash. A spokesman for the bank said they don't comment on "specific personnel matters," and, "continue to recruit aggressively, and attract top talent as we execute on our strategic growth initiatives." Stifel now has more than 200 people in Europe and will end this year with more employees than it began. 

The impetus behind the exits isn't clear and they may simply be the result of a late-season urge to try something different somewhere else. The company has several five star reviews on Glassdoor, but it also has reviews complaining of poor pay, long hours and a trying culture. 

The exits may have been partly inspired by Stifel's acquisition of ACXIT Capital Partners, a European corporate finance boutique in June. It's understood that there are fears in Europe that the bonus pool will be diverted to help pay for the purchase.

Senior staff are understood to have been deployed to stabilize the situation, but potential gripes remain. "No one wants to pay for all the loss-making teams," says one insider. 

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor
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