Steven Kantor, then head of investment banking for Cantor Fitzgerald, gathered his staff about a year ago for a holiday party in his 82nd-floor apartment in Trump World Tower overlooking the United Nations.
Bloomberg reports that the bankers discussed the brokerage’s renewed push into underwriting and merger advice while drinking Avion, a tequila in which Kantor, 55, personally invests, according to five guests. Within about 10 weeks, more than half of his 50 bankers are said to have been fired or reassigned.
CEO Howard Lutnick’s drive to turn one of the largest independent U.S. brokerages into a rival to Wall Street’s investment banks has been pocked with dismissals and defections. Forty-one percent of the 158 traders and bankers whose hirings Cantor announced in news releases since 2009 have left, industry records show. In interviews, 19 current and former employees blamed Cantor’s reluctance to commit money to deals and pressure to turn immediate profits.
'It’s very difficult to turn a bond house or an equity-trading house into an investment bank unless you’re playing with big money', said Roy Smith, a finance professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business and a former Goldman Sachs partner in charge of that firm’s London office. 'This is a very constrained market, and the guys already in it are already competing pretty hard'.
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