Merrill Lynch seeks UBS banker to boost badly hit broking arm

Bank of America Merrill Lynch is in talks with a leading banker at UBS as it seeks a senior figure to salvage its badly hit corporate broking arm.

Merrill lost its broking boss, Mark Astaire, this month when he switched to the fast-growing practice at Barclays Capital. The investment bank had already been hurt by the loss of the well-known broker Andrew Osborne, who resigned when he was investigated by the Financial Services Authority over disclosing insider information. The FTSE-100 constituent Tullow Oil replaced Merrill as broker as a result of Mr Osborne's departure. The FSA fined Mr Osborne £350,000 last month.

Merrill is understood to have approached Peter Luck, a UBS managing director of corporate broking, who has worked with Blackstone-owned Travelport and the Irish building materials giant CRH, to lead the team. It is thought that the parties are in advanced negotiations, though it is unclear if there are other contenders for the role.

A senior broker at a rival bank said: "This is a bit of a jump [up] for Peter, but there aren't a lot of good brokers out there at the moment."

Broking is essentially a UK industry, which focuses on building long-term relationships with clients in the expectation of winning more lucrative mandates, such as advising on acquisitions, further down the line. Broking is in a state of flux as a number of firms have consolidated in order to survive.

Earlier this year, Royal Bank of Scotland offloaded Hoare Govett, one of the most venerable names in broking, to the US investment bank Jefferies.

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