Attempts to confirm the speculation were met by a wall of silence from Schroders and NatWest Markets, which only served to strengthen the rumours in City circles.
NatWest lost a handful of key personnel to the family-controlled Schroders merchant bank last year, and sources said yesterday Schroders' ranks would soon be swelled by the recruitment of John McNeil.
Mr McNeil is the highly paid head of equity primary markets at NatWest Markets and, according to sources, is believed to have been offered an equally senior and well-remunerated position in Schroders' rapidly expanding securities operation.
If he does join Schroders he will be following a well-trodden path to the merchant bank's headquarters in London's Cheapside. The first person to move from NatWest to Schroders last year was Philip Augar, head of global equities and fixed-income sales. He runs Schroders' securities operation in London.
Mr Augar, who is on holiday and unavailable to comment on the rumoured recruitment of Mr McNeil, last year hired former colleagues Richard Wyatt and Patrick Wallington, who were head of equities and equities research respectively at NatWest Markets.
Schroders has also recruited staff from other rivals, including Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs, from which it hired Paul Walton, equity strategist.
"Schroders have been taking from everywhere," one source said last night. "There are some good people in there now," another said.
NatWest Markets replaced Mr Augar by hiring Tom Whelan from Morgan Stanley.Reuse content