Natwest Markets is gathering a new reputation for paying rather well

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Have you heard? Natwest Markets (AKA the old RBS) is a bit of a payer? So say various headhunters who claim to have seen it in action, bidding for candidates.

"Everyone still thinks Natwest Markets is constrained and super-regulated, but they can still pull out big packages when they want to," says one senior fixed income headhunter, speaking off the record. "There have been a few occasions when they've surprised us recently." The head of a rival fixed income search boutique agrees: "Natwest are pushing out. They've been one of this year's big spenders."

Any big spending seems to have been borne of necessity. After Steve Ashley poached James Konrad, Biagio Lapolla and Robbie Anderson for Nomura's flow rates trading in July, Natwest has been on the back foot. "They lost their rates trading desk to Nomura, so people going there have been able to name their price," claims one headhunter.

These people have seemingly included the likes of Juliette Jestin-Knapp, a former inflation trader at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, who is said to be joining Natwest Markets imminently. The bank also hired Vladimir Piterbarg, who left Rokos Capital Management in July.

Natwest Markets' new reputation for generosity might come as a surprise to those who work there already. RBS's 2017 remuneration report put average pay for material risk takers at Natwest Markets substantially below all U.S. banks and five per cent below Barclays. Only Standard Chartered seemed to pay less.

One headhunter close to RBS said the bank, which is still majority-owned by the British government, pays on a par with big European banks like Deutsche Bank and Barclays, and is more generous than the likes of HSBC and BNP Paribas, However, he contested the claim that Natwest Markets' hires can "name their price." The bank will frequently offer a pay increase of up to 20% as an inducement to move, in line with the rest of the market, he said. Anything more than that tends to fall foul of RBS's "robust" HR process.

RBS's attempt to rebuild its rates desk comes as other banks are hiring in the area too. Per-Fredrik Emanuelsson, the former head of rates and emerging markets trading at Commerzbank (previously of BNP Paribas and Barclays) is understood to have quit last week for Nordea.

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