J.P. Morgan appoints Catherine Leung vice-chairman of Asia IB

J.P. Morgan's Catherine Leung, who is head of Hong Kong investment banking, takes on this additional title in a move that formalises her role in building relations between Hong Kong and China.
Catherine Leung
Catherine Leung

J.P. Morgan announced internally yesterday that Catherine Leung, head of Hong Kong investment banking, has been appointed vice-chairman of Asia investment banking.

"Under Catherine's direction, J.P. Morgan has established market leadership in Hong Kong through strong relationships with all the major corporates," wrote the firm's head of Asia investment banking Todd Marin in an internal memo seen by FinanceAsia. "Recently Catherine has begun to work closely with [CEO for China investment banking] Fang Fang and the China investment banking team to secure opportunities in southern China and with select mainland clients."

Leung will take on this new role in addition to her existing job as head of the investment banking team in Hong Kong. It is an appointment clearly designed to bolster a strong team -- Fang Fang has the same title (vice-chairman of Asia investment banking) in addition to his other role as CEO for China investment banking. The new title allows Leung to stretch her existing focus on Hong Kong into southern China and to cover more clients, and in that sense, merely formalises what has already been happening. For example, Guangdong-based real estate developer Country Garden is already one of Leung's relationships. 

"China is a big country -- this just lets us do more for J.P. Morgan," said Leung of the additional title, noting that it doesn't change the landscape of the J.P Morgan China team.

Her promotion is basically a reflection of the trend that is seeing more and more Hong Kong companies expand into China, and the increased overlap between the Hong Kong and China teams that this creates, said an insider, pointing to the example of Hong Kong-listed supply-chain manager Li & Fung listing its small-cap China retailer Trinity Limited in Hong Kong last October.

Leung's reputation in Hong Kong is as a trusted advisor -- she has a solid list of blue-chip Hong Kong clients such as Noble Group, Cheung Kong (Holdings) and Bank of East Asia, that come back to her again and again. Equally important, she's built upon that solid base. In the past year she has worked on deals for existing accounts, such as the $300 million high-yield bond for Country Garden last September, but also added to her client roster through deals like Henderson Land Development's $500 million bond, the $1.28 billion Hong Kong IPO for Shanghai-based Glorious Property, and the $1.63 billion IPO for Wynn Macau, the Macau arm of the casino business owned by Las Vegas gaming magnate Stephen Wynn, to name a few.

"It's important to have repeat business, of course, but it's also important to add names to the portfolio," said Leung.

After graduating with an undergraduate degree from The Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, summa cum laude, in 1990, Leung went to work as a consultant in New York. But after a few years of identifying problems for corporations, that sense of non-completion bothered her. The job wasn't feeding her soul.

And so she called her father in Hong Kong and asked for advice. He suggested she call Ivan Lee; Leung's and Lee's dads were friends when the two were growing up and Lee had become a J.P. Morgan banker. Leung called and chatted. Lee recommended she contact J.P. Morgan. Leung did -- and the two stayed in touch, married and had children together.

Leung has been at J.P. Morgan ever since, evidently moving from strength to strength -- and always praising the firm. "I think this move, along with others, really says something about J.P. Morgan and the role of women," said Leung, noting that all firms say there is room for growth. "But we can point to women in senior roles, which is proof that it's a good place for a woman to work."

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