Andrew Low announced yesterday that he will leave Macquarie to pursue other interests, after nearly 20 years with the firm and its predecessor Bankers Trust Australia.
He will be taking gardening leave from the firm, but sources say he is interested in returning closer to China for his next venture. Low will also remain a consultant to Macquarie Capital Advisers.
Some sources say the news is a surprise to his colleagues, given that Low was seen as the second-in-charge at Macquarie Capital alongside the global head of investment banking, Michael Carapiet.
"As many of you will be aware Andrew has been a leader of the Macquarie Capital business. He has taken Macquarie Capital from a niche player to the successful investment banking franchise that we have across Asia," Carapiet said in an internal announcement to staff.
After running Macquarie Capital's business in Asia for six years, Low left the region in October and took some time off before returning to Sydney in January this year to take on the role as chief operating officer for Macquarie Capital Advisers.
In Asia, he worked on Macquarie's acquisition of ING's Asian equities business in 2004 and was also a key force in driving the firm's technology, media and entertainment coverage.
For the past six months he has also been global joint head of the financial institutions group (FIG) with John Waller. As for Low's chief operating officer role, Len Caronia, currently joint chairman and North American head of FIG, will take over the role. John Roddy will become head of FIG in the US.
The move should have little impact on the Asia operations of the firm. Although Low retained the title as head of Macquarie Capital Asia after he moved to Sydney, he had hired a de facto replacement in September 2009 when he brought onboard Kalpana Desai as deputy head of Asia for Macquarie Capital Advisers and in March she was appointed head. Low's departure effectively cements her position in the region as head, sources say.
"There was always talk he might do his own thing," said a source, adding that the view was he would "give it time to all bed down" and noting that in Desai he "had hired his replacement".
The standout success in Asia of late for Macquarie's investment banking business has been how it managed to leverage the global distribution capabilities of Macquarie Group's cash equities business (the old ING stock broking business now called Macquarie Securities Group) to build a competitive equity capital markets business. Having completed its first ever equity underwriting deal in Asia in 2007, Macquarie has since underwritten the largest IPO in Hong Kong in both 2008 and 2009 (China Railway Construction Corporation in 2008, China Minsheng Bank in 2009) and is also one of the bookrunners on Agricultural Bank of China's IPO, which looks set to become the world's largest IPO ever.
Macquarie quickly became known as the Chinese equity share sale house, having featured in four of the last seven A + H share IPOs. This is important when you consider where the money has been made in the past few years in Asian investment banking -- IPOs and more specifically Hong Kong IPOs by Chinese clients.
Macquarie Securities Group, the former ING business, has built its presence since 2004 to become widely seen as the world's largest distributer of Asian equities. It researches more than 1,200 Asia-listed securities and has more sales people dotted around the world focused purely on selling Asia-listed securities than any of its competitors.
This story was first published as a Breaking News Alert on the FinanceAsia website yesterday.