Introducing Wall Street's new rainmakersApril 9, 2012: 1:34 PM ET
Wall Street banks appear to have finally decided it's time for change. A new crop of investment bankers are on the rise.
FORTUNE -- There are a bunch of new butts to kiss on Wall Street.
In the past few months nearly every Wall Street firm has named a new head of either its entire investment bank or one of its key businesses. Two big banks, Goldman Sachs (GS) and Citigroup (C), have made significant changes to their boards of directors. German financial giant Deutsche Bank has recently overhauled its entire management ranks following the promotion of its head of investment banking, Anshu Jain, to co-CEO.
"It's unusual to have this many changes at the top of investment banking organizations," says Wall Street recruiter Russ Gerson. "There has been a fundamentally significant change going on Wall Street."
So far this year, Bank of America (BAC), Deutsche, Credit Suisse and UBS have all named new heads of their investment banks. Citigroup has shaken up its lagging mergers and acquisition by naming a co-head of that division. That bank also has a new chairman of its board, Michael E. O'Neill. Hong Kong-based HSBC also has a new head of its mergers practice. French bank Societe General, which last year was dogged by rumors that it might need a bailout, reportedly has an entire new team of bankers running its investment bank. Goldman has also made some changes in Europe, with a new head of so-called financing and capital markets in the region. And it's not just the large global banks that were battered by the financial crisis changing up their management. Eduardo Mestre, who had headed up U.S. investment banking at boutique firm Evercore, said he was giving up the role in late February. Evercore has yet to name his replacement.
Wall Street recruiters say there are a lot of reasons for the management shuffle on Wall Street. First of all, it was overdue. While nearly every bank fired its CEO during the financial crisis or leading up to it, many investment banking chiefs were able to hang on. Now, with the prospect of new business for Wall Street growing with a stock market that has been rising until recently, those executives are being pushed out, or moving on as well.
The new appointments also likely mark a shift on Wall Street. For much of the past decade, banks made much of their money from underwriting and trading debt. By the mid-2000s, debt traders and bankers from the firm's bond divisions came to run many of the businesses at financial firms. That reign appears to be over. The world appears to be over leveraged already. And Dodd-Frank and other regulations are making it tougher for banks to generate a lot of income from trading. What's more, debt traders didn't turn out to be the best at managing Wall Street's risks. "The fixed-income takeover of Wall Street was a bloody disaster," says top Wall Street recruiter Rolfe Kopelan, who heads up the Capstone Partnership.
Recruiters also say disappointing bonuses and a general feeling on gloom on Wall Street have caused some bankers to call it quits. Some recruiters say even top Wall Street bankers are feeling strapped. "Part of my theory is that these people have cashflow and liquidity problems," says John Owens, who runs CREW Advisory Services, which specializes in recruiting for Wall Street firms. "A number of bankers have recently told me I need X to cover my bills. I have never heard that before."
One example of those being elevated is Colin Fan. Fan, 39, who took over as co-head of investment banking at Deutsche, is the youngest of Wall Street's new leadership crop. Even so, Fan does come from the debt side of Wall Street. But the Canadian-born, Chinese banker, who is based in London, has spent a good deal of time working in the emerging markets as well. Before the promotion, Fan ran a division of Deutsche that generated $3.5 billion in revenue a year. A recent article in a trade publication called Fan "one of the most promising investment bankers of his generation."