BoA Merrill appoints Brian Brille as new Asia-Pacific president

Current Asia-Pacific president Kim Hong will move aside and take up a new role as vice-chairman for the region, reporting to Brille.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch has appointed Brian Brille as its new president for Asia-Pacific as part of a global leadership appointment exercise by Tom Montag, the president of global banking and markets (GBM) after he in early August added corporate and investment banking to his previous responsibilities as head of global markets. The new leadership aims to speed up the integration of the bank's corporate and investment banking businesses and to ensure that these teams work together seamlessly to deliver client solutions.

The move follows a similar appointment exercise within global wealth and investment management after Sallie Krawcheck joined from Citi in August to head up that division. Brian Moynihan, who became head of consumer banking at the same time, is making no changes to his team at this point.

The appointment of Brille, who is currently head of corporate and investment banking for the Americas, to this key Asia role suggests that Bank of America is continuing to strengthen the US influence over Merrill Lynch in the region after taking over the business at the beginning of this year. Brille is from BoA in the US and, according to insiders, is a senior banker with good connections to the bank's leadership at the Charlotte, North Carolina, headquarters.

Notably, he is taking over the Asia-Pacific president role from Asia veteran and Korean national, Ki Myung Hong (better known as Kim Hong), who has held this position since February 2009 when he replaced Nelson Chai who stepped down after just five weeks in the job. Hong will be given a new title as vice-chairman for Asia-Pacific, but will report to Brille. While difficult to be viewed as anything but a demotion, one source notes that BoA Merrill doesn't have many vice-chairmen in the organisation and says Hong will be working closely with Brille, to provide the necessary Asian experience to the regional leadership.

At the same time, though, Brille is believed to be the right person to lead the integration of the corporate and investment banking businesses in Asia, having spent a long time building and integrating the corporate and investment banking division in the US and Latin America. And with president being the top operational role in this region, a reshuffle became necessary.

"Having spent many years working in Asia, I am keenly aware of the growth opportunities and am committed to building the leading financial services platform in the region," said Montag in an internal announcement.  "[Brille's] proven track record of leading and integrating the bank's capabilities to deliver for our clients makes him the perfect candidate to build out our footprint for the Asia-Pacific region. [Hong] will play a critical role on Brille's team, ensuring that we continue to build on our recent progress in the region."

Montag is a former Goldman Sachs banker who was hired by Merrill Lynch in April 2008 to head global sales and trading -- a division that was renamed global markets after the US investment bank was taken over by Bank of America at the beginning of this year. Montag reports directly to BoA-Merrill's CEO Kenneth Lewis.

In a separate comment to the reshuffle, Hong noted that "with the uptick in the regional economy and markets, the time is right to bolster [the bank's] commitment to the region. "[Brille] is a highly respected leader with a strong history of developing successful businesses at Bank of America, and he will add a new dimension to what is a highly experienced management team in the region."

Indeed, Hong himself has more than 25 years of industry experience and intimate knowledge of the markets in Asia. He joined Bank of America in 2007 as head of global markets for Asia. In July 2008, he was appointed president of Asia-Pacific, making him responsible for Bank of America's overall businesses in 12 countries across the region. After the acquisition of Merrill Lynch, he became chief risk officer for Asia-Pacific before being re-named president of the expanded bank in February.

During his career, Hong has worked in a number of fixed income, equities, investment banking and structured product areas covering the London, Middle East and Asian markets. Prior to joining Bank of America, Hong spent seven years with J.P. Morgan in Hong Kong, Korea and Singapore, including a stint as country head for Korea. He has also worked at Citibank and Bankers Trust, where he was regional co-head of investment banking.

Management reshuffles are commonplace at Bank of America and the source says the bank seems to like to give its senior people experience from a range of different roles. From an Asia perspective, this particular change ought to be positive as the region doesn't lose anyone; rather it gains a senior person with the ear of the top management, he adds.

The Friday announcement by Montag also answered a couple of key questions that had been brewing with regard to the global markets team in Europe and the US. Andrea Orcel will stay on in London and the three-way leadership of the US corporate and investment banking team will also remain in place, although one of the three will relocated to London to ensure "a more geographically balanced management team" and they will all assume the role of co-heads of global corporate and investment banking (GCIB).

Orcel has been named executive chairman for GBM, with responsibility for strategy and engagement with major corporations, investors and governments around the world. 

"[Orcel] will be my partner in strategically mapping out our worldwide growth across the global banking and markets platform," said Montag. "In addition, he will lead our effort to become the thought leaders for CEOs, governments and investors globally."

Meanwhile, Paul Donofrio, Michael Rubinoff and Purna Saggurti have been named co-heads of GCIB and will lead investment banking globally, partnering closely with global corporate banking to deliver a fully integrated corporate and investment banking platform, according to the announcement. Donofrio will relocate from New York to London, while Rubinoff and Saggurti will continue to be based in New York.

The Friday statement also revealed that Jonathan Moulds will remain as president for Europe, the Middle East & Africa (EMEA) based in London, but will take on expanded regional responsibility for Latin America and Canada. Bruce Thompson will continue in his role as head of global capital markets and Cathy Bessant will retain her role as president of global corporate banking.

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