Saunders is looking to set up on her own

Robin Saunders, the high-profile financier who ran German bank WestLB's principal finance business, is in talks with potential backers about setting up her own investment vehicle in the New Year.

Ms Saunders will officially leave WestLB on 31 December, the bank announced yesterday, after it decided earlier this year that it wanted to close down its principal finance arm. She will take with her various payments such as deferred bonuses worth in the region of £1m.

Ms Saunders, who has worked at WestLB since 1998, said: "I believe there are many excellent opportunities out there and in the light of WestLB's decision to change its strategic focus, I have decided to pursue my career elsewhere."

The move brings to a close a period which saw Ms Saunders become one of the best-known figures in the City, before controversy was heaped on her career and the processes of the German bank.

Losses at the principal finance business meant WestLB plunged to a €1.7bn loss last year and prompted Germany's banking regulator, BaFin, to carry out a wide-ranging review of the lender's risk controls.

Ms Saunders has not been personally censured by the regulator, but it did say WestLB needed to increase provisions to cover potential liabilities at some of the companies the bank invested in.

BaFin also criticised the practice of allowing employees to invest their own cash in companies they were putting WestLB's money into. Ms Saunders and some of her team invested in several projects within the principal finance stable.

Following its own internal strategic review, WestLB concluded it wanted to exit principal finance, whereby investors take large stakes in often underperforming businesses and attempt to turn them around, while also repackaging the debt and trying to sell it in the market.

Ms Saunders, who at one point wanted to create a consortium to buy the principal finance portfolio from WestLB, does not want to work for another large institution and is instead talking to various parties about setting up a new vehicle of which she would be in charge. She has spoken to institutions and to wealthy private investors about funding.

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