Bank of America Merrill Lynch has hired Citi's Kenji Abe as its new chief Japan equity strategist. Abe will join the US bank’s Tokyo office on April 2, according to an internal memo seen by FinanceAsia.
Abe will report directly to Eiichi Katayama (pictured below), head of Japan research at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, who is also based in Tokyo. He will work directly with Ajay Kapur, the bank’s Asia-Pacific equity strategist, who works out of Hong Kong.
Abe joins Bank of America Merrill Lynch from Citi, where was chief Japan equity strategist from 2010. Before that, he held similar positions at Lehman Brothers and Nomura Securities. Citi declined to comment on whether he had been replaced.
He began his career at Japan’s Ministry of Finance in 1998, where he was involved in foreign exchange policy at the international bureau in Tokyo. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Tokyo and his PhD in economics at Johns Hopkins University.
Abe replaces Naoki Kamiyama, who left Bank of America Merrill Lynch in January to take on a chief strategist role at Nikko Asset Management, the Japanese asset manager with $160 billion under management as of September 30.
Kamiyama had been Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s chief Japan equity strategist since 2012 and previously worked at Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Securities.
According to Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s January monthly fund manager survey, Japanese equities remained heavily in favour last month but less so than in the prior month. Some 34% of global investors were overweight Japanese equities in January, down from 40% in December, the survey found.
A total of 177 fund managers overseeing $514 billion participated in the global survey, while 97 fund managers managing $231 billion participated in the regional surveys.
Japan's Topix index is up 3.69% so far this year.
Another Bank of America Merrill Lynch report dated February 11 states that Japan’s return on equity (ROE), which was -3% on average in 2009, is forecast to hit 9% for 2015. The report says an inflationary environment and a weaker yen are helping to boost in earnings and that the trend will continue.