The six ex-Bank of America Merrill Lynch debt bankers who quit the firm in March this year resurfaced at ANZ on Monday. Jimmy Choi has joined as the head of debt capital markets for Asia, based in Hong Kong, while Kang-Jae Kim comes in as head of frequent issuers and financial institutions for Asia, based in Singapore.
Leonard Ng and Linda Xu, previously vice-president and associate, respectively, at BoA Merrill, have joined as associate directors; while Anita Leung and Jimmy Chua, previously analysts, have come on board as associates.
The six bankers join their old boss Michael Luk — who was previously head of Asia-Pacific debt capital markets at BoA Merrill before he left the firm in August 2011. Luk later joined ANZ in November as its global head of debt origination and head of capital markets Asia.
However, the timing of the six bankers joining coincides with several departures from ANZ’s debt team last week. At least three debt bankers are confirmed to have left. Isaac Wong, the head of corporate debt capital markets (DCM) for Asia, was one of the departures. Wong had previously worked on ANZ’s syndicate desk and prior to ANZ had also worked at Deutsche Bank. In addition, Alec Yang, who headed asset-backed securities for Asia, and Jonathan Leung, who worked with Yang, also left ANZ last week.
The timing of their departures has led some to speculate that this was prompted by the six former BoA Merrill bankers joining the firm.
For its part, ANZ has made no secret of its plans to expand in the region. On the debt side, it is active in the kangaroo market and has handled some private placements. It is also active in a number of local currency markets such as the Singapore dollar. It completed two Singapore dollar bonds last week — a S$85 million bond for Swiber and a S$143 million five-year bond for Ubitech.
But observers note that ANZ’s main strength lies in loans, which it could play to its advantage in the current markets. The importance of balance sheet and corporate banking relationships is apparent in the league tables, with HSBC, J.P. Morgan, Citi and Standard Chartered currently hogging the top four spots in Asia ex-Japan G3 league tables, according to Dealogic data.
“We’ve seen ANZ land a high-yield mandate due to its balance sheet,” said one rival. “The key question is how long they can keep lending as banks will quickly use up their limits, particularly for high-yield names, and at some point they will have to move the asset to take on more loans.”
Meanwhile, BoA Merrill has moved quickly to replace the junior staff that left the firm and it has also widened the responsibilities of its existing team. It has hired Steven Zhang from Royal Bank of Scotland, to replace Linda Xu. Zhang starts as a senior associate on June 18. It has also hired Alfonso Maputol, an associate from Standard Chartered, to replace Anita Leung.
The bank has also transferred Nathan Borne, a vice-president from the leveraged finance team in New York, to replace Leonard Ng. Vicky He, a senior associate, has transferred from the bank’s Australia DCM business to replace Jimmy Chua.
Kang-Jae Kim’s Southeast Asian responsibilities have been taken up by Ranobir Mukherji, a senior originator for Asia who is focused on Southeast Asia and has since relocated to Singapore. Jonathan Yip has taken on Jimmy Choi’s old responsibilities for Asia high-yield and continues to handle high-grade China DCM, supported by Steven Zhang. Ashish Malhotra has taken over origination for Hong Kong while remaining the head of syndicate.
Jinwook Shin continues as head of Korea global capital markets and the bank has also hired BK Park, an analyst based in Korea. Edmund Leong remains a director in the Asia leveraged finance team.