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Jefferies Group Inc. (JEF) has hired Benjamin Welsh, a former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) managing director, as global head of foreign exchange and plans to recruit additional professionals in the business, according to people familiar with the situation.
Welsh, a 20-year industry veteran, joined the investment bank in January as part of Jefferies' efforts to beef up its foreign-exchange operations, which include its Jefferies Bache commodities and financial-derivatives unit. The company acquired the business from Prudential Financial Inc. (PRU) last July for roughly $430 million.
Welsh's arrival and other recent additions may suggest a more-active hiring season for Jefferies. The firm was a heavy recruiter of traders and bankers from larger rivals over the past five years, though it became more selective in 2011 amid market turmoil. Jefferies has recently added technology analysts Brian Fitzgerald and Brian Pitz from UBS AG (UBS, UBSN.VX), according to people familiar with the situation.
Jefferies reported 3,875 employees as of March 1, up 26% from 3,082 at the end of the first quarter a year ago.
Jefferies has been eager to build up the Bache business, which has boosted the firm's commodities and international presence. Earlier this month, a judge approved an offer from the unit to acquire precious-metals assets from the estate of MF Global Holdings Ltd. (MFGLQ).
During a recent conference call with analysts, Jefferies Executive Committee Chairman Brian Friedman that, while the unit Bache unit performed "a bit below our expectations" in the first quarter, the firm believes the business "will be coming back over the next quarter or two" as it has "continued to strengthen the platform."
Welsh's addition came despite a retrenchment in currency markets worldwide, with institutional investors pulling back and retail traders replacing only some of their activity. The sovereign-debt crisis in Europe and its continuing economic fallout have driven currency traders to the sidelines with trading volumes having collapsed in 2011 and early 2012, according to the Bank for International Settlements, which reported worldwide figures in March.
Before joining Jefferies, Welsh was a managing director in Goldman's global commodities business. Previously, he worked at J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. (JPM) as a managing director focused on macro trading and held management positions at HSBC Holdings PLC (HBC) and Citigroup Inc. (C).
Shares of Jefferies closed Tuesday down 0.8% at $16.20. The stock has climbed 18% year-to-date.
-By Brett Philbin, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2173; [email protected]