Seeking to boost its share of the booming European mergers and acquisitions market, J.P. Morgan & Co. is planning to hire about 100 investment bankers, mostly in continental Europe.

To coordinate the hiring, it has placed a former Salomon Smith Barney executive - Campbell Gordon - in the newly created role of chief operating officer. He is to work with Klaus Diederichs, co-head of mergers at the banking company.

But J.P. Morgan, which was lead adviser on $353 billion of European M&A deals last year, will have to wrestle with every other global investment bank in Europe for the same top candidates.

"Virtually everyone is saying they want to hire investment bankers," said Andrew Lowenthal, head of the global financial services group at executive search firm Egon Zehnder International in London. "The question is, where are they going to get them?"

The war for talent is especially fierce at the managing director level, where experienced executives with established business contacts are sought, Mr. Lowenthal said.

J.P. Morgan will be in the thick of things. It plans to hire about 20 people at the managing director and vice president level, another 20 for back-office work, and about 60 at the analyst or associate level, said a spokesman for the company. The hiring plans were first reported by Bloomberg news.

As it has in past European recruiting drives, the company will be trying to hire most of its less experienced people from Continental universities and firms, rather than in the U.K. market, which has traditionally fueled much of the U.K.-based European investment banking.

Candidates from local markets have "an understanding of the local tax system and stock exchange regulations, and the same culture as our clients," said Sandrine Roch, a vice president at J.P. Morgan in London, who manages the analyst-level investment bankers in Europe.

About 80% of J.P. Morgan's lower and mid-level investment bankers in Europe hail from the Continental nations; the portion of senior executives with those origins is somewhat less.

J.P. Morgan will focus its European hiring on France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, three countries where the company has a client base and expects the momentum of corporate restructuring to continue, said Ms. Roch. At the same time, it plans to beef up its telecommunications, media, and technology group and hire people in financial institutions, she said.

But it will be fighting against other U.S. investment banks for the limited pool of European investment bankers with an understanding of U.S. culture and who have resisted the lure of Internet start-ups. These companies are now starting to attract talent in Europe much as they have in the United States.

"There is a pool of investment bankers that have been working in small investment banking boutiques in Europe," said Mr. Lowenthal, the headhunter, "but they often don't have the business acumen or the drive to work in a global bank."

Ms. Roch, herself a French university graduate hired by J.P. Morgan after finishing a master's degree in London, agreed that a fair amount of competition exists in the hiring market.

J.P. Morgan's European plans are part of an investment banking build-up announced early last year, when vice chairman Walter Gubert said the company would concentrate on hiring managing directors globally. Most of the 44 recruits it signed up last year were in the United States and are to work with technology and related industries. But it also did some European hiring, including Peter Ahrens, a vice president who came from Warburg Dillon Read's M&A group.

Pulling this all together will be Mr. Gordon. The chief operating officer at Salomon Smith Barney in Europe, he left it Sept. 30, about the time Salomon was making a new commitment to focus on Europe. Last week, it announced it would buy the U.K. investment bank Schroders PLC.

Reached at his London home, Mr. Gordon said he would start his new job Feb. 7, but he would not comment on his plans at J.P. Morgan.

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