Merrill - New Boss, More Bankers Go

The FT reports that Merrill Lynch has confirmed its new chief to run Europe. But it's still business as usual as The Wall Street Journal claims that the firm laid off around 100, or 10%, of its investment bankers last week.

Kevan Watts is to be the new Merrill chairman for Europe, Middle East, Africa and the Pacific Rim. He replaces Michael Marks, who resigned last week. Watts, 51, said that 'if I have any particular skill, apart from hiring good people, it is getting those people to work together.' Industry insiders see Watts' appointment as another sign that firm chief executive Stan O'Neal is tighening his grip on the business. Some quietly fear that the latest management shake-up is nothing more than the promotion of the old guard and believe that an influsion of new top talent would be beneficial.

In the meantime Merrill continues to manage its costs and is believed to have let around 100 investment bankers go last week in the latest round of headcount reductions. The firm said that it believes 'that the bulk of staff reductions is behind us'.

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