Until now, investment banks have been mostly handing out pink slips to mortgage specialists. Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers and Morgan Stanley have laid off hundreds of employees as a result of losses from the belly-up subprime market. But the pain won’t stop there. Coming on the heels of a high-level house cleanings at Merrill Lynch and UBS, JPMorgan is paring back debt specialists more broadly—including in the formerly lucrative leveraged finance team. It’s unlikely to be the last bank to do so.
JPMorgan’s decision is not surprising, though it hits at the heart of the investment bank’s most recent cash cow. But when the leveraged buyout market turned on a dime in July and began spinning ugly losses for Wall Street, the blush quickly left the rose.
While the buyout business hasn’t eroded as quickly as the mortgage market, new business has almost halted. That means origination bankers—those that have relationships with the private equity firms and are constantly sniffing around for the next deal —will be pretty bored.
It could be some time before enough new buyout business resurfaces for these bankers to justify their multi-million dollar keep. The pipeline of hung deals in the market is still lingering around $300 billion (Rs11.8 trillion).
Things are looking better than they did a month ago, but the debt is moving at a snail’s pace. And until the old deals are sold, banks finish writing down their losses and debt investors’ confidence returns, banks may see leveraged finance specialists as a luxury they can’t afford.