Commerzbank makes a play for Asia's derivatives business

Commerzbank is building its equity and fund derivatives presence in Asia - expect more hires in the near future.
Ian Sosso, managing director and head of corporates and markets in Asia-Pacific, wants to make Commerzbank a strong niche player in the structured products market in the region.

He has led the shift from the German bank's better known role as a treasury business in the region to its current focus on structured products. It's not such a major leap, as the bank is a major equity and fund derivatives structured product provider in Europe to the retail, private bank and institutional markets.

Over the past two years, Commerzbank has built an equity and fund derivatives presence in Hong Kong - though the build-up is not complete. Expect seven-to-10 more hires over the next six months. The bank is also currently setting up a credit derivatives business in Hong Kong.

"The derivatives business is a growth market here in Asia, so we're naturally focusing here," says Sosso, noting that Commerzbank has established Hong Kong as its main Asian hub for trading.

A structuring and sales team has brought existing technology for complex and innovative structured products, and adapted to the Asian equity and fund derivatives markets, primarily by creating products that the big local banks in Hong Kong, Singapore, Seoul and Taiwan can wrap in their own names and sell themselves.

"We're also pushing fund derivatives as that's a strong area of expertise for Commerzbank in Europe," says Sosso, noting that the bank is working on structuring products, on mutual funds, fund of hedge funds and investment funds.

In addition, a private banking sales team has been focusing on selling flow structured products issued daily by Commerzbank - given that private banks are a growing industry in the region, this is clearly a burgeoning market. And the bank is building a commodities derivative business in Europe to respond to current market sentiments.

Some of its recent hires for this effort include Irene Chen, previously with Chinatrust, as head of structuring and sales for Taiwan, and KP Lee, previously with Societe Generale, as head of structuring and sales for Korea. To boost derivative coverage in Asian equities, Nicolas Nguyen has moved to Hong Kong from London Equity Derivatives Trading.

Expect more hires to be announced later this year.
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