Lazard suffers second high-profile defection in five months

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The Independent Online

Lazard, the world's largest investment banking partnership, suffered its second high-profile departure in five months yesterday, after William Loomis, its chief executive, revealed plans to leave the firm at the end of this year. He was appointed last November.

Mr Loomis, 53, has worked at Lazard for 24 years and will become a limited partner at the firm. The move sees Michel David-Weill repossess the chief executive's duties that he surrendered when he became groupwide chairman last year.

The latest reshuffle among Lazard's upper echelons will revive talk that the bank is struggling to hire and retain talented bankers amid competition from so-called "bulge bracket" rivals on Wall Street.

Ten of its top bankers – including Steven Rattner, the deputy chairman, and David Dautresme, the co-head of mergers – quit after Lazard integrated its London, New York and Paris operations in March last year. David Verey, the chairman of Lazard's London office, left in May this year and joined Cazenove, Lazard's rival, as deputy chairman in July.

Lazard shut its money markets division and scaled back its wealth management unit in the wake of the integration. However, the restructuring has done little to help the bank's position in the keenly watched merger-and-acquisition league tables. Lazard has suffered a 48 per cent decline in deal volume this year, against an industry average of 38 per cent.

Unlike major US investment banks, such as Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, the firm does not have a securities arm that can offer clients ready access to the capital markets. It prides itself on providing independent advice to companies on mergers and restructurings, arguing that rivals advise certain courses of action largely to obtain financing fees.

Its critics say clients demand the services of a securities house.