BoA Merrill's debt team

BoA Merrill restructures Asia-Pacific debt team

The bank overhauls the reporting lines for its Asia-Pacific debt team shortly after six debt bankers quit the firm.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s Asia-Pacific debt team has gone through a reshuffling of roles and an overhaul of reporting lines in recent weeks. The firm’s regional debt origination and syndicate bankers now report to Jason Cox and James Fleming, who were promoted to co-heads of Asia-Pacific global capital markets (GCM) on March 20. GCM includes both equity capital markets (ECM) and debt capital markets (DCM).

According to an internal memo, the new management structure provides a “more unified and direct reporting structure to the global leadership team”.

Sources within the firm say that under the new structure, debt bankers will have greater representation at the firm’s New York office as Cox and Fleming report to Alastair Borthwick and Lisa Carnoy who are based in BoA Merrill’s New York office, as well as to Jayanti Bajpai and Jiro Seguchi, who are co-heads of Asia-Pacific investment banking. Previously, the debt team's main reporting line outside Asia was to London.

However, the restructuring has also come shortly after six bankers quit the firm en masse on March 9. Among the six were Jimmy Choi, who headed BoA Merrill’s Asia high-yield coverage, Kang-Jae Kim, a director covering Southeast Asia, and Leonard Ng, a vice president. This has led to speculation that the recent overhaul is at least partly driven by those departures.

Among the changes to the debt team, Ranobir Mukherji, head of Asia debt capital markets (DCM) origination is relocating to Singapore from Hong Kong. Mukherji will “continue to oversee our debt origination efforts across Asia, with a particular focus on issuers in the rapidly growing Southeast Asia market,” according to the internal memo.

Meanwhile, Ashish Malhotra, head of the debt syndicate for Asia-Pacific, has taken on additional responsibility for Hong Kong debt origination, while Jinwook Shin continues to head Korea GCM and Gen Nakahara is responsible for Japan GCM. Mukherji, Malhotra, and Nakahara all report to Cox and Fleming, as do Daniel Dela Cruz and Chad Karpes, the two co-heads of Australia DCM. Shin, who previously reported to Mukherji, now reports to Cox and Fleming instead.

Observers note that under the new management structure, BoA Merrill’s debt bankers now report to the firm's equity capital market bankers, referring to the fact that Cox and Fleming were co-heads of Asia ECM before they got promoted. They will continue to jointly lead BoA Merrill’s ECM business in the region but additionally, the firm's debt bankers also report to them.

This is a clear departure from the bank's old debt management structure. In the past, the heads of debt for Asia, Australia and Japan reported to the head of debt for Asia-Pacific, a position that was previously held by Michael Luk.

Luk reported into “international DCM” in London, which basically covered all the firm's DCM business outside the US. However, Luk left the bank in August 2011 and BoA Merrill has not replaced him. The debt team has also thinned out thanks to the recent departures.

However, sources within the firm point out that the fact that Asia-Pacific debt is no longer grouped with "international DCM" -- which includes Latin America and other emerging markets -- reflects the region's growing importance. 

“The Asia-Pacific capital markets business is a key strategic focus for our firm and the region’s importance continues to grow within the global marketplace. It is imperative that we align our business to reflect the region’s growing importance,” the memo said.

A spokesman at BoA Merrill declined to comment for this story.

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