* Three top bankers have left since March
* Lending cuts hurt small commodity traders
By Emma Farge
GENEVA, June 26 (Reuters) - BNP Paribas has lost two of its top Geneva-based bankers in commodity trade finance, the French bank confirmed, dealing a further blow to one of the sector’s major lenders.
The departures were driven by a perception of diminishing opportunities within the bank, industry sources said, as traditional lenders cut lending due to a lack of dollar financing and new European rules on capital requirements due to be phased in next year.
The two heads of energy and commodities finance for global trading hub Switzerland, Jacques Begle and Philippe Ziegler, have left BNP, a spokesperson for the bank confirmed to Reuters.
The official did not say whether they would be replaced.
Begle was also one of the top bankers for the former Soviet Union, a core BNP market.
The bank said in March it remained committed to the sector after its head of commodity trade finance, Jacques-Olivier Thomann, quit his role.
Still, the retrenchment of lenders such as BNP Paribas from transactional trade finance -- a form of ad hoc lending that does not require a formal credit facility -- has left many smaller commodity traders without access to funding.
Asian and Middle Eastern banks have filled some of the shortfall left by French lenders such as BNP Paribas and Credit Agricole, although some clients are seen as vulnerable to closure or takeover by bigger rivals.
“It’s an earthquake for the sector. These recent resignations of top-notch bankers are a sign that the situation is worsening for Geneva’s typical transactional finance system,” said Philippe Steiner, a Geneva-based commodity finance consultant.
Increasing caution among lenders is also seen as impeding the emergence of a new generation of start-up trading houses.
Switzerland is the base for major commodity traders such as Glencore and Vitol, and handles around one third of physical crude oil volumes globally.