HSBC finally orders new ECM head

An old Asia hand returns from London to take over the ECM reins at HSBC.

In case you hadn't noticed, HSBC has not had a head of ECM since the end of last year, when Jo Simpson left the firm. That has finally changed with the appointment today of Jonathan Orders.

Orders will return to Asia, scene of many a triumph, from London, where he has worked for BZW, CSFB and ABN AMRO. Most recently with the latter, he was managing director for origination at ABN AMRO Rothschild.

However, his last stint in Asia was during the first half of the go-go 90s with Barings, when the British firm was a dominant force in Asian equities. He was then co-head of ECM with Russell Julius, who in a circular turn of events is now global head of ECM at HSBC. In fact, Orders will report into Julius in London, and to Dr Guocang Huan in Hong Kong.

Adding spice to Orders appointment will be the sibling rivalry that promises to develop with brother, Richard, who is ABN AMRO's Asian mandate supremo. Elder brother Richard, for example, was responsible for one of the year's best IPOs, Maxis and is regarded as one of Asia's best client bankers.

Observers will be watching carefully to see if the younger brother can finally convert HSBC's regional clout into mandates of a similar magnitude to Maxis, as well as lead some of the bigger China privatizations (HSBC already has the mandate for Air China, for example).

They will be sceptical. HSBC's on-off approach to ECM has led many investment bankers in the region to ask the 'eternal question' - can HSBC ever become the powerhouse it ought to be in Asian equities? HSBC's deep and historic relationships with many of the region's biggest companies (and its loan book) should make it a shoe-in when it comes to winning ECM business, but to the amazement of its rivals over the years, it has never capitalised on this fact.

If Orders can finally do so, there will be many rivals who will view the future with a degree of trepidation. But as one put it, "Given HSBC's past track record in ECM, he's going to face a challenge."

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