Schroder poaches senior staff from NatWest Markets

National Westminster's troubled investment banking operation was rocked last night by news from New York of a defection of several top executives to head up a healthcare corporate finance and research team at Schroder & Co Inc.

Market sources said about two dozen people, including analysts and bankers specialising in healthcare and technology, joined the exodus to Schroder. NatWest Markets, the investment banking business, would not comment on the departures and Schroder declined to specify the exact number of people joining the firm.

Schroder did state, however, that it had hired Bradley Razook, who headed healthcare corporate finance at NatWest, and Peter Sidoti, who ran research in healthcare and real estate, with several of their colleagues. Mr Razook will head the corporate finance healthcare group and Mr Sidoti will join the research department.

The other senior defectors include Laurent de Marval and Bradford Wildauer, managing directors of healthcare corporate finance, and Jeffrey Bagley and Ray Lewis, who will join the research department.

A joint statement by Gerry Grimstone and Barry Tarasoffny, Schroder executives, said: "This addition ... will immediately create an integrated research/corporate finance group in healthcare. Since 1991, Mr Razook, Mr Sidoti and their team were instrumental in over $8bn [pounds 4.8bn] of equity and equity-linked financings in addition to conducting a sizable M&A business."

Meanwhile, in London, National Westminster is understood to have responded to growing pressure from institutional investors to do something about its underperforming investment banking arm by setting in train a radical reorganisation of NatWest Markets. The revamp has been seen as a prelude to a possible disposal of the division, from which NatWest has failed to generate a satisfactory return.

The proposed changes are understood to centre on a slimming down of investment banking by taking NatWest Markets' corporate lending and treasury functions back into the commercial bank.

Although NatWest refused to confirm the changes, details are expected to be announced when the bank unveils interim results at the beginning of next month.

Any reduction in the scope of NatWest Market's activities will be seen as a reversal of the global strategy outlined when the business was formed in 1992.

Opinion was divided in the City yesterday as to whether the move signalled the end of NatWest Markets or was simply a case of the bank buying time to put its house in order.

Richard Coleman, banking analyst at Merrill Lynch, thought it extremely unlikely that NatWest would perform such a dramatic volte-face as selling the business. But John Leonard, at Salomon Brothers, said: "In the sense that it increases their options for what to do with the business in the future, the changes are not just cosmetic."

Derek Wanless, who took over as chief executive of NatWest Markets after the resignation of Martin Owen, is understood to be in favour of the changes, which would see activities such as foreign exchange and money- market dealing return to the bank.

NatWest Markets yesterday announced the appointment of Tom Lundie as chief financial officer. He is currently head of finance at the treasury and capital markets division of HSBC. At NatWest he will report to group finance director Richard Delbridge and Mr Wanless.

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