Barclays spent a decade assembling a team of the most successful gas and power traders in Europe. It took less than 16 months to lose most of them.

Bloomberg reports that Mercuria Energy Trading SA, based in Geneva, hired five members from the group of about a dozen from March 2011 to June this year, including Phil Sutterby as head of U.K. and European gas and Roger Jones, the former global chief of commodities, according to people with knowledge of the moves. Another six left for companies including UBS, Noble Group and Freepoint Commodities.

The departures from the bank reflect bonus caps, limits on the amount of money traders can risk and shrinking revenue from the division that includes commodities. While hiring from hedge funds and rival lenders helped Barclays catch up with Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) and Morgan Stanley in commodity derivatives, according to Greenwich Associates, a focus on deferred pay left the bank vulnerable to headhunters.

‘The significant amount of deferred compensation and the aggressive cap on cash payouts at Barclays has unsettled a number of individuals’, said Peter Henry, New York-based head of front-office research at Commodity Search Partners. ‘Add to that the fact they have been systematically targeted by privately held trading houses, specifically Mercuria, and it’s fairly understandable why senior traders are leaving’.

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Bonus Limits Spark Exodus at Barclays Energy Trading Unit