Eugene Lai returns to banking

Lai becomes head of JPMorgan''s Malaysian investment banking unit.

First it was Zhang Liping joining CSFB after a few years in the corporate world. Now Eugene Lai has been persuaded to hang up his chief executive's hat and return to an investment banking career. Lai has been made chief country officer and head of investment banking for JPMorgan in Malaysia.

The trend of ex-bankers leaving the corporate world to come back to banking perhaps suggests the good times are here again for the deal makers. It might also point to the paucity of available talent presently sitting in banks after the brutal 'de-cruiting' of 2001-2003.

Lai returns to banking from The Ascott Group where he was MD and CEO. Prior to that position he was an MD and partner at Carlyle Group. Before that Lai was with Citigroup for four years in the region, holding the position of MD in the Asia Pacific investment banking division and head of corporate finance for Southeast Asia. Lai started his career as a corporate finance lawyer.

The hire is the latest in a string of big name moves in Malaysia. The world is clearly gearing up for a welter of deals from the country in the wake of Prime Minister Badawi's restructuring drive. The privatization and consolidation he envisages will both require the services of ranks of talented bankers. A further increase in cross border activity is also likely as Malaysian companies are encouraged to go regional and global. Yesterday's news that Ganen Sarvananthan will be joining the Malaysian government investment agency Khazanah from UBS, shows how serious the govermet is in getting its acquisition and divestment programme on track.

At JPMorgan, Lai will report to both Philip Lee, CEO of Southeast Asia and to Ralph Parks, JPMorgan's chairman for Asia. "Eugene brings invaluable experience and capabilities from his previous positions as a senior investment banker, private equity investor and corporate executive," says Parks. "Drawing on this rich background and the firm's broad capabilities, Eugene will further develop our Malaysian business, advising corporations and government entities on a broad range of financing and strategic issues."

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