The French bank quietly building a trading floor in the sun

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The French bank quietly building a trading floor in the sun

If you wanted a trading job at BNP Paribas in Europe, it used to be the case that you'd either work in Paris or in North West London. This is changing: BNP has been quietly shifting its markets jobs to Southern Europe, and saving itself a lot of money in the process. 

In the past eight years, sources say BNP has set up a well-staffed trading operation in Lisbon, Portugal. "We came to Lisbon in 2014 with less than 10 people, and we're now 250," says one insider. "We have a target to reach 400 by 2025."

BNP Paribas' Lisbon global markets business is run by Diogo Malato Moura, a former global head of product sales who moved from Paris in 2017. Christopher Claude, a former head of flow and financing strategic marketing in London, is in charge of building out a risk management hub in both Lisbon and Madrid. 

"We started with non-regulated staff and have moved to execution desks," says one Lisbon employee. "First it was equities and then we opened G10 rates and EM FX and equity derivatives. The target is to add more trading, structuring and sales here. The sales teams are already covering institutional clients and have their own mandates." 

BNP Paribas declined to comment, although sources confirmed that the bank is building its markets business in Portugal. The only problem, according to insiders, is the pay.

BNP Paribas typically pays less than large American banks, but it doesn't pay badly either. In 2021, average total compensation (salary plus bonus) for material risk takers at the bank was €1m. Entry level salaries for analysts in the U.S. are $85k according to information registered for H1B visa holders. In Paris, entry level analysts can earn €100k.

In the Lisbon office, insiders say pay is a lot lower. "If you're a junior sales person you'll earn half as much here as in London," complains one insider, who says pay can be as low as €35k. Glassdoor puts the average analyst salary in BNP's Lisbon office at just €17k, although this isn't for sales and trading in particular. 

While pay is naturally lower in Lisbon and this is part of the city's appeal to banks interested in squeezng costs, some say BNP needs to up its game. "We're not the only bank here and competition for talent is intense," says one insider, pointing to the various crypto players that have settled in the Portuguese capital, plus Natixis, Revolut and Itau BBA. Revolut is paying twice as much, he claims. Meanwhile, house prices are rising rapidly, although inflation is lower than elsewhere and only expected to hit 4.4% this year. 

Many of the senior people at BNP's Portuguese trading hub are members of the French elite. Olivier Oddou, a senior manager, for example, is a graduate of ENSEIRB-MATMECA, a French grande ecole in Bordeaux. Claude has a masters from HEC, the top ranked French business school. 

However, BNP has also been harvesting staff from Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal's own rarefied educational establishment. Malato Moura is a Nova graduate. So too are people like Bernardo Talina, a hybrid trading analyst who moved from Paris in 2017. 

While Portuguese graduates might be happy to stay close to home, BNP may also need to up its pay if it's to attract them in the requisite numbers over the next three years. "The expansion plans are very ambitious and the growth here has been incredible, but the salaries on offer need to keep up with the responsibility of these roles," suggests the local employee.

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Photo by Tom Byrom on Unsplash

 

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