Deutsche Bank AG, currently No. 16 on the manager league tables, might have a shot at the No. 1 seat this year.
It all depends on whether or not issuers that have traditionally gone with asset-backed giant Credit Suisse First Boston choose to follow Jorge Calderon and Philip Weingord, former co-heads of the asset-backed group at First Boston, over to Deutsche.
Why shouldn't they? CSFB's entire asset-backed team did.
The migration, which could include 20-plus people, was spawned by a combination of recent organizational changes at First Boston, coupled with the firm's history of unsatisfactory bonuses, said one source. Bonuses this year at CSFB were handed out on Friday, Feb. 25.
The following Monday, Richard Uhlig, formerly co-head of Deutsche's asset-backed group, announced his resignation and intention to persue an offer to work in Merrill Lynch's Treasury group.
Though officials at both banks declined to comment on the situation, the source said, "Obviously it's not official, but apparently, Calderon and Weingord have been interviewing over there. I can tell you for a fact that they've been there."
"A move of this size, rumored to be between 20 to 22, is the first case in the asset-backed arena, where you have, from what I understand, all aspects of the business depart," said another source, who is an ABS analyst. "You've got trading, you've got research, you've got banking, and you've got syndicate."
Fred Brettschneider, head trader at First Boston, and Brian Wiele were reportedly walking the office, saying goodbye to co-workers last Wednesday.
"Of course when you have a trader walk out, the traders immediately pick that up, through the brokerage part of it," the analyst said.
Ironically, just a few years back, research head Tracy van Eck along with Leslie Goldwasser left CSFB for Bear, Stearns & Co., reportedly because of bonus-related issues.
"Apparently that was a time when First Boston stiffed people on bonuses, and there was a big brouhaha in the marketplace," said another source. "They had a lot of people leave."
First Boston, possibly the biggest name in the U.S. asset-backed industry today, did nearly $40 billion worth of business last year, and was ranked the No. 1 manager overall in proceeds. Deutsche Bank did just under $5 billion in proceeds, according to figures provided by Thomson Financial Securities Data.
"Over the last year and a half, Deutsche has been looking to expand its operations here in the US, to do public business," a source said. "These two people (Calderon and Weingord) would give them instant credibility. They're probably the only shop that could walk away with clients, and they are so well respected among their peers that they could more or less walk out with the whole group."
The potential migration is causing market players to ask a number of questions concerning industry dynamics. For one, if this goes through, will First Boston be able to continue as an industry leader?
"First Boston, like other firms, are a generalist sales force, so [the remaining traders] can still sell all kinds of products," the analyst said. "But clearly without your banking talent to generate the new business, the deal flow and products to sell are going to decline significantly."
Also, how significantly will this affect Deutsche's penetration into the ABS market?
"It's an instant bump in the business for Deutsche," said the analyst. "It's over night. What they're buying is a major talent.
"If you look at the history of the asset-backed world, you've seen shops go out and try to build a business from the ground up," the analyst added. "Most of the time those strategies fail. With this strategy, it's clearly going to be a turnkey operation. You're taking a whole group over there, turning on the lights, turning on the computers and saying let's go."