The financial crisis is forcing investment bankers to take on unfamiliar tasks left behind by redundant colleagues to meet the needs of clients struggling with choppy markets.

With capital raisings and acquisitions harder to execute but with fewer large teams of specialists on hand to help, the battle to survive intense market turmoil is being waged increasingly by old-style industry all-rounders.

The fear of looking idle at a time of massive layoffs is also weighing on bankers' minds and prompting them to look for work outside their divisions or with new clients.

We need to not be so aggressively defined by our job titles in the current environment, said one head of equity capital markets (ECM) for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

In this market every initial public offering that we were working on is (also) a merger and acquisition (M&A), or a private capital opportunity, so I am very much encouraging the guys that work with me to think like that.

The rapid rise of investment banks during decades of deregulation often drove bankers into a narrow product focus, unlike the all-round corporate financiers who held sway until the late 1980s.

But with fewer staff available after deep rounds of job cuts, many banks now require teams to multi-task and double their efforts to bring in future business as appetite for deals dry up.

Switzerland's UBS -- heavily hurt by the credit crisis and a series of scandals -- for instance pulled staff covering banks and insurers in debt capital markets into one group in September.

In M&A, banks are scrutinizing the overlap between bankers covering countries and specialists in sectors such as industrials or technology, restricting the number of advisors needed for each deal.

Corporate coverage bankers have always been the jack of all trades, and not quite masters of nothing but not specialists either, said one debt banker, saying that this was now a model for more specialist colleagues to adopt.

A deeper bench of more versatile bankers means others can jump in if more is needed for a particular client.


Stricter capital rules and the prospects of years of lower earnings are forcing banks to cull staff in an industry-wide strategic rethink, and bankers are using a lull in deal-making to step outside their comfort zones.

The debt banker, for instance, said he had planned a series of meetings with equity investors and sovereign wealth funds in coming weeks, laying the ground for new types of hybrid debt deals that could eventually be sold to these clients.

The competition to win mandates for future listings, and the preparation to be done on these deals is also keeping some busy, although business is still slower than usual.

It is rather like having lots of grown up children that don't want to leave home, Ben Iversen, head of EMEA ECM at Nomura, said at an ECM conference last week run by IFR, a Thomson Reuters publication.

You have to still spend time with all of these companies and make sure that you help them stay ready for any improvement in market backdrop, he said.

Overlaying this is the worry that revenues are still not picking up quickly enough, even for those who say they genuinely have a lot to do on their patch.

We're busier than ever, but to what extent that business will become lots of profit-generating business is the problem, said the debt banker.

Another banker working in ECM syndicate -- the section that structures deals and works with investors rather than with companies -- said he had just about enough work to fill a day, but wished he did have more on, despite the welcome free time in the evenings with his family.

Others are spending time reading up on new regulation, talking to lawyers and accountants about these issues and taking advantage of the slowdown to get new corporate photos taken, according to one industry source.

(Editing by Douwe Miedema and David Cowell)