Ashok Mittal skips HSBC India for Lehman

Mittal to become a managing director at Lehman Brothers in India soon after the bank inks a deal to buy the institutional equity group of Brics Securities.
FinanceAsia has learned that the well-regarded Ashok Mittal had decided to quit HSBC in India for the local operations of Lehman Brothers. The Wall Street firm is expanding aggressively on the sub-continent and recently announced plans to buy the institutional equity group of Brics Securities, a leading brokerage firm in India.

Mittal had the title of co-head of investment banking at HSBC Securities and Capital Markets (India) prior to the move, with the rank of director. However, when MittalÆs co-head, Ravi Menon, reportedly moved to set up a proprietary trading operation, a banker from HSBCÆs Hong KongÆs operations was parachuted in with the title of head of investment banking.

Finding the reshuffle not to his taste, Mittal decided to try his hand at LehmanÆs growing operations.

Mittal will have the title of managing director and answer to LehmanÆs head of investment banking, Surojit Shome. Shome was appointed to the post in January this year, also with the rank of MD. Shome reports to Kunho Cho, head of investment banking Asia-Pacific, and Tarun Jotwani, chairman and chief executive officer India at Lehman Brothers.

Mittal is reportedly taking on the role of coverage banker, leveraging his strong and numerous local relationships, according to one source close to the move.

Lehman seems to be continuing with its strategy of bringing on board bankers from well-established franchises. Shome himself was not a career investment banker, rather he was head of CitiÆs corporate banking franchise for India and the sub-continent when Lehman poached him. In May, Lehman hired Prashant Purker from ICICI Bank to head its global finance business for India. And now Mittal, another banking veteran, will join from HSBC. Citi, ICICI Bank and HSBC all offer a suite of products thus have relationships spanning the Indian corporate sector. Lehman must be hopeful this will help it kickstart its India franchise.

The newer entrants to the investment banking arena in India are above all seeking access to key decision-makers to win mandates, comments a banker.

Like other investment banks operating in India, Lehman is also seeking to leverage its balance sheet to earn returns. Earlier this year it hired Jayanta Banerjee from ICICI Venture to focus on private equity investing and Samita Shah from JP Morgan to oversee principal investing in all areas other then PE.

In tandem with other markets in the region, the Indian stock markets have also displayed signs of nervousness as fears hit the region that Asia could be impacted by the US subprime fallout. Earlier this month some Indian initial public offerings struggled to get full subscription and bankers are predicting a temporary drought for IPOs. The credit crunch could also impact other deals from India. Cross-border outbound M&A by Indian companies, which has characterised 2006 and 2007 year-to-date, could also face a slowdown as Indian companies have been raising significant bank finance to fund their acquisitions.

But most investment bankers remain optimistic that this is a temporary blip and things will soon be back to normal. Lehman certainly must be expecting things to look up as it is busy strengthening its team on the ground in India.

Mittal, 41, is a Physics graduate from University of Wooster, Ohio and an MBA from IMI, Delhi.

Neither HSBC nor Lehman responded to requests for comments.
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