Henry Cai resigns from UBS, Chin to take over in China

Cai, who is chairman of Asia investment banking as well as head of investment banking for China, is said to be taking a break from the industry.
David Chin
David Chin

Henry Cai, UBS's chairman of Asia investment banking and head of investment banking for China, has resigned from the firm and is looking to take a break from the industry, sources said last night. David Chin, who is joint head of Asia investment banking, will take over Cai's investment banking responsibilities in China  with immediate effect.

Cai has been with UBS since March 2006 when he joined from BNP Paribas, initially as chairman of investment banking for China. He has played a big role in growing the firm's China business, by bringing home mandates and by teaching his fellow bankers how to go out and win business, and is described by some as one of the best China bankers of his generation.  

He was promoted to chairman for Asia investment banking in March last year in connection with the departure of Robert Rankin, who was head of investment banking for Asia-Pacific. Rankin was replaced by David Chin and Matthew Hanning, who took on the role as joint heads of investment banking for Asia.  

Although he has a background in China's public sector, Shanghai-born Cai is known for his extensive relationships among China's entrepreneurs and over the past four years he has helped UBS take numerous mainland companies public. As chairman of Asia investment banking he was effectively the most senior coverage banker in the region and reported directly to Alex Wilmot-Sitwell, co-CEO of the investment bank.

However, sources close to the bank stress that like other recent departures at UBS, Cai's resignation is likely to have limited impact on UBS's overall business, thanks to the size and depth of the firm's investment banking team in the region. The firm's investment banking business is also quite institutionalised. Or as spokespeople at the bank like to put it: "the business is bigger than any one person". A bit of spin, sure, but the way in which UBS has managed to shake off the loss of other people in Asia during and since the financial crisis and the fact that it continues to win client business to keep it in the top of the league tables, does offer some support for these statements.    

The domestic China business, which includes the local capital markets franchise UBS Securities, is led by Zhao Ju, who succeeded Cai as chairman of China investment banking when he was promoted to the wider Asia role last year (Cai retained the job as head of China investment banking). And the region as a whole is ably handled by Chin and Hanning.

It was unclear last night what Cai, who is 55, will do. Some sources said there were still discussions ongoing that may result in him returning to UBS after an extended break, while others said he may be looking to join a state-owned enterprise or perhaps follow the path of so many other former investment bankers and start a private equity firm.

According to UBS's website, from 1987 to 1991, Cai was a member of the industrial and transportation management group in the Shanghai government and between 1992 and 1996 a member of the state council IPO team in Shanghai. He joined Peregrine Investment Bank in 1997 and rose through the ranks to become co-head of investment banking for Asia at the enlarged BNP Paribas Peregrine.

Cai's resignation comes after Steven Barg resigned from his job as head of global capital markets (GCM) for Asia in late May to join Goldman Sachs as co-head of equity capital markets (ECM) for Asia ex-Japan. Two weeks earlier, Mark Williams, the head of Asia ECM, left for a job as head of ECM for Asia ex-Japan at Nomura.

UBS acted quickly to fill both positions. The gap left by Williams was filled within a few days by moving Stuart Mackay into a new role as head of ECM origination for Asia excluding China, and by bringing Sam Kendall back from London to take over from Mackay as head of equity syndicate for Asia. And a week after Barg's departure, the bank announced that John Sturmey will be returning to the firm to become co-head of GCM for Asia together with Joseph Chee, who is taking on the Asia job in addition to his roles as head of China GCM and vice-chairman of China investment banking.

At around the same time, UBS re-hired Asia veteran Peter Burnett for a new role as chairman of GCM for Asia, with a focus on client marketing and relationship building as well as the positioning of the bank in the region. Burnett has a more than 20-year career with UBS behind him and was co-head of the firm's investment banking business in Asia from 2000 to 2006. 

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