You are currently viewing The French bank is quietly building a trading room in the sun

The French bank is quietly building a trading room in the sun

If you wanted a trading position with BNP Paribas in Europe, you worked either in Paris or in North West London. That’s changing: the BNP has quietly moved its markets jobs to southern Europe, and saved a lot of money in the process.

Over the past eight years, sources say BNP has set up a well-staffed business operation in Lisbon, Portugal. “We came to Lisbon in 2014 with less than 10 people, and now we are 250,” says an insider. “We aim to reach 400 by 2025.”

BNP Paribas’ global markets business in Lisbon is headed by Diogo Malato Moura, a former global head of product sales who left Paris in 2017. Christopher Claude, a former head of strategic flow and finance marketing in London, is in responsible for the construction of a risk management center in Lisbon and Madrid.

“We started with unregulated staff and moved to enforcement offices,” says a Lisbon employee. “First it was equities, then we opened up G10 rates, emerging markets and equity derivatives. The goal is to add more trading, structuring and selling here. The sales teams already cover institutional clients and have their own mandates.”

BNP Paribas declined to comment, although sources confirmed the bank was expanding its markets business in Portugal. The only problem, according to insiders, is the salary.

BNP Paribas generally pays less than the major US banks, but it doesn’t pay badly either. In 2021, the average total compensation (salary plus bonus) of the bank’s material risk takers was €1 million. Entry level salaries for analysts in the United States are $85,000 according to information recorded for H1B visa holders. In Paris, junior analysts can earn €100,000.

In the Lisbon office, insiders say the salary is a ground lower. “If you’re a junior salesman, you’ll earn half as much here as in London,” complains an insider, who says pay can be as low as €35,000. Glassdoor puts the average analyst salary at BNP’s Lisbon office at just €17,000, though that’s not for sales and trading specifically.

While wages are understandably lower in Lisbon and that’s part of the city’s appeal to banks interested in cost cutting, some say BNP needs to up its game. “We’re not the only bank here and the competition for talent is intense,” says an insider, pointing to the various crypto players that have settled in the Portuguese capital, as well as Natixis, Revolut and Itau BBA. Revolut pays twice as much, he claims. Meanwhile, house prices are rising rapidly, although inflation is weaker than elsewhere and is only expected to reach 4.4% this year.

Many executives of the Portuguese commercial center of the BNP belong to the French elite. Olivier Oddou, a senior executive, is for example a graduate of ENSEIRB-MATMECA, a major French school in Bordeaux. Claude holds a master’s degree from HEC, the leading French business school.

However, BNP has also harvested staff from Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal’s rarefied educational institution. Malato Moura graduated from Nova. The same goes for people like Bernardo Talina, a hybrid trading analyst who left Paris in 2017.

While Portuguese graduates might be happy to stay close to home, the BNP might also need to raise its salaries if it is to attract them in the required numbers over the next three years. “The expansion plans are very ambitious and the growth here has been incredible, but the salaries offered must follow the responsibility of these roles,” suggests the local employee.

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