The bank, which was bought by ING, the Dutch financial services group, achieved this position in a year which has been highly lucrative for corporate financiers.
A record pounds 1.1bn in fees was generated overall, as were bumper bonuses to staff, according to Acquisitions Monthly, the trade magazine.
During 1996 Barings worked on 31 deals worth pounds 11.8bn and 11 of these were public takeovers worth pounds 9.3bn.
The largest mandate was to advise Royal Insurance on its pounds 2.4bn merger with Sun Alliance.
"This proves to the market that the excellent show Barings made in 1995 was not just a flash in the pan. The bank really is a force to be reckoned with," said Philip Healey, editor of Acquisitions Monthly.
Second in the league table is Lazard Brothers, which benefitted from its expertise in hostile bids. The Lazards team advised Granada on its pounds 3.6bn hostile takeover of Forte and Rentokil on its pounds 2.1bn bid for BET.
SBC Warburg, third in the table, was one of the beneficiaries of the pounds 40m dished out by Forte in its desperate, but failed, attempt to avoid Granada's grasp. The bank retained its position in the table despite a wave of defections after the merger between Swiss Bank Corporation and Warburg's last year.
As business boomed during the year, fuelled in part by race to merge ahead of the general election, so did the hiring spree and compensation packages offered.
Merrill Lynch, the US financial firm, hired Guy Dawson from Deutsche Morgan Grenfell and as a result was catapulted into the Acquisitions Monthly top 10.
Deutsche Morgan Grenfell, in contrast, slid from eighth to 14th.
Bill Harrison was tempted to BZW, the investment banking arm of Barclays, from Robert Fleming, on a pay deal worth close to pounds 6m over five years. George Magan, the veteran corporate financier, sold his business, Hambro Magan, to NatWest Markets in a deal which was rumoured to have created as many as 100 millionaires.
In the race to find mergers and acquisitions experts, many professionals were offered guaranteed bonuses because they were hired during the financial year and not, as is more traditional, at the year-end once their bonuses have been paid out.
Top 10 M&A advisers
Baring Brothers (1) 11,789
Lazard Brothers (2) 11,096
SBC Warburg(3) 10,320
Schroders (7) 9,626
NM Rothschild (5) 9,348
Kleinwort Benson (9) 8,987
Hambros Bank (16) 7,825
UBS (20) 7,671
Merrill Lynch (-) 7,661
Goldman Sachs (10) 7,461
Source: Acquisitions MonthlyReuse content