Management books and your mum would caution that when you leave a job, never burn your bridges. You may want to return to your old path. Chris Laskowski's latest move is a textbook case of how good that advice is.
In 2008, during the height of the nervousness about global markets and at a time when sponsorship activity was playing possum, Laskowski left the financial sponsors group he set up for Citi in Asia and returned with the bank to Chicago to work as a managing director covering Midwest banks and looking after financial sponsors/private equity deals for the Midwest area. He'd been in Asia since 1999, covering both financial sponsors and financial institutions, and said he was just ready to go back to the US. It was a brutal time for bankers in the region, if you recall, and the likelihood that there would be sponsorship deals here didn't seem promising.
He left Chris Gammons, whom he had hired from Deutsche Bank, in charge of the financial entrepreneurs group in Asia. But in January this year Gammons moved on to Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- leaving the position vacant.
Farhan Faruqui, Citi's head of global banking for Asia-Pacific, rang up Laskowski and asked the obvious question: Do you want your old job back? A tempting move, given that many of the private equity folks that Laskowski would have sold to a few years back would now want to unwind their positions -- and let's face it, it's good to be on the front end of the deal, but it's even better to be there later on when clients are exiting their investments.
As Laskowski said: "The financial sponsors sector is and will continue to be one of the most active sectors for our Asian investment banking operations. During my earlier stint in Asia, the sector was relatively young and we were primarily focused on assisting sponsors in finding investment opportunities. Although investing will continue at a quick pace, we are also seeing sponsors now seeking to divest those initial investments via IPOs and trade sales."
But for him to take on the job, the role needed to be more than what he was doing five years ago when he first started the group. So talks began.
And yesterday Citi announced that Laskowski will take on the role as head of the financial entrepreneurs group Asia-Pacific global banking and become chief operating officer (COO) for global banking Asia-Pacific. Laskowski will be a member of the Asia-Pacific banking management committee and report to Faruqui and Brad Coleman, the global head of Citi's financial entrepreneurs group.
"We are excited to have Chris back in Asia and look forward to further building out this important and fast growing global franchise," Faruqui said in a statement. "The financial sponsor community is an important set of clients for Citi, creating opportunities for us to leverage our global network and provide a full range of products and services."
The COO gig, which is a newly carved out position, is key. According to the announcement, in the COO role, "Chris will take a leadership position in a range of client initiatives, including ensuring we are delivering the full power of our platform to our clients across the region. The growth prospects of Asia-Pacific bring with it a need to further build out a dynamic and experienced management team and we are delighted that Chris has decided to return to Asia and add to our management bench strength."
Aside from the client-facing angle, the role also gives Laskowski a bigger say in recruitment and the direction of Citi global banking in Asia, and obviously links him back to what's happening in New York.
The fact that Faruqui offered up the COO role also indicates he needs extra bench strength in Asia global banking, which is not surprising given Citi's scale across 18 markets. That he has chosen someone who he knows well and who he has worked with for more than a decade should also come as no surprise, say insiders.
As for being in charge of the financial entrepreneurs group, Laskowski will manage a team of six and plans to hire more staff in the next few months.
It's all rather fitting that Laskowski should be returning to the Asia fold. Citi has been hiring aggressively this year. Colin Banfield, who left Nomura in March, started at Citi yesterday as head of mergers and acquisitions -- hopefully bringing stability to a role that has churned quite a bit over the years. And, in January, Alasdair Morrison, a former group managing director of Jardine Matheson and chairman and CEO of Morgan Stanley Asia, joined Citi to support the ongoing expansion of its global banking franchise in the region, which is responsible for the coverage of Citi's largest institutional clients and for delivering corporate and investment banking products and advice to these clients.