A wave of departures has hit Barings Investment Bank since the payment last week of staff bonuses. Fourteen people have left in the past couple of days, including three senior executives on its securities side, the bank conceded yesterday.
The departures come as Barings is fighting to regain its poise in the aftermath of the bank's collapse under pounds 900m in derivatives losses in the Far East, and its purchase by ING, the Dutch bancassurance group.
A number of big institutional clients, in the UK and the US, have expressed reservations about dealing with Barings until they judge the situation has settled down.
Richard Greer, who used to head Barings' Tokyo office and then became head of research in London and in charge of client liaison, has left to join Christopher Heath's new investment banking operation, Caspian. Mr Heath built up Barings Securities in the Eighties, particularly focused on the Far East, where he knew Mr Greer.
Another key departure was that of Neil Andrew, who was head of equity settlement at Barings, and is also believed to be heading for Mr Heath's new operation.
Temzin Hobday, who was Barings' Latin American strategist, is leaving to join Merrill Lynch. The other 11 departures were mostly at a less senior level, mainly coming from within the securities operation, but including one person from corporate finance.
A top executive at a rival American investment bank expressed the view yesterday that Barings is in danger of losing its critical mass on the securities side, given the drain of departures, which began before the collapse.
In early March, Barings lost its top quality Japanese research team in Tokyo to the brokers Smith New Court.
At the time of its takeover, ING quickly pledged to honour nearly all of the bonuses that Barings had announced shortly before the collapse. The exceptions were key executives who the new Dutch owner felt had failed to control the futures trader Nick Leeson, whose losses triggered the bank's failure. The bonuses were paid on 20 June, and were quickly followed by the departures.
The atmosphere at Barings, and particularly the securities arm, remains complicated by the uncertainty of what will be contained in the Bank of England report on the merchant bank's demise. This investigation is in the final stages, with individuals criticised in the report being shown the relevant passages for comment.
The Bank of England has said that it wants to hand the report to the Chancellor of the Exchequer before Parliament rises in late July.