Goldman Sachs Group Inc.'s (GS) co-head of global mergers and acquisitions Yoel Zaoui is stepping down from his post, the latest high-level exit at the Wall Street firm.

Goldman announced the departure of Zaoui in an internal memo Tuesday. The London-based banker, who is 51 years old, has been with Goldman for nearly 25 years. He will remain a senior director of the firm, the memo said.

Zaoui joined Goldman in 1988 and became its co-head of European M&A 11 years later. He later became head of European Investment Banking before assuming his current role last year in a reorganization of Goldman's vaunted M&A ranks. His co-head, Gene Sykes, is expected to assume the title of sole global head of M&A at Goldman.

The departure of Zaoui, one of the best known bankers in London, follows the exit of a number of senior dealmakers from Goldman this year, including industrials banker George Mattson and Luca Ferrari, who ran the firm's M&A business in northern Europe out of London.

A number of factors are behind the departures. Most investment bankers receive their bonuses around now, which typically triggers a wave of retirements and defections to rivals. An especially large number of high-profile banker moves have taken place lately, including most notably the defection of Bank of America Merrill Lynch's Andrea Orcel to UBS AG (UBS), where he will be co-head of the Swiss firm's investment bank. Furthermore, the recent volatility in financial markets has hit securities firms around the world hard, causing them to pare back pay and staffing levels.

The exit of senior rainmakers also creates room for up-and-coming talent, and indeed, Goldman will name a new set of partners — one of Wall Street and the London's most coveted roles — at the end of this year.

Zaoui, whose next move is unclear, has worked on some of the landmark deals on the last decade, such as the deals that created ArcelorMittal SA (MT) and Sanofi-Aventis SA, in 2004 and 2006, respectively.

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