Merrill Lynch India loses IB head

Amit Chandra, head of global markets and investment banking at Merrill Lynch in India, joins the trend of moving to private equity.
In a move seen as a significant loss for DSP Merrill Lynch India, Amit Chandra, managing director and head of global markets and investment banking has announced his resignation. Chandra is leaving to found a private equity fund with Rajat Gupta. Gupta was formerly managing partner at McKinsey & Company (the first Indian to hold this position).

Chandra will continue with the firm until the end of 2006 to ensure a smooth transition. Hemendra Kothari, chairman of DSP Merrill Lynch says: ôAmit has helped build DSP Merrill Lynch into the top franchise in India, making strong contributions as well as providing senior leadership at the corporate level. Amit has spent the past year helping to integrate DSP Merrill Lynch into the broader Merrill Lynch platform. Our success and growth speaks for itself and his efforts.ö

Chandra says: ôThere is never a good time to leave a firm that one has been an integral part of, but this is the best time to take the plunge considering that we are very well positioned in the market place, have significantly diversified our product capabilities with new start-up business lines, and solidified our leadership in existing ones.ö

Chandra has been open about his ambitions to move to a more entrepreneurial role in private equity. In July this year, Munesh Khanna joined DSP Merrill Lynch as head of investment banking. His appointment was announced along with that of Patricia Mclaughlin as vice chairman of India investment banking. At the time it was widely perceived that these moves were a pre-cursor to Chandra transitioning out of his client responsibilities and focusing more on principal investing for DSP Merrill Lynch.

Industry insiders wonder why Merrill Lynch was unable to find a role for Chandra that would have satisfied his ambitions and kept his talents within the firm. However, a source close to the matter, says various avenues had been explored but it was not possible to reach a solution which married Chandra's entrepreneurial ambitions within the Merrill Lynch operating framework.

Chandra has had a 13-year stint in investment banking, entirely with DSP Merrill Lynch and is widely regarded as one of the firm's rainmakers in the country. Some of the firmÆs key relationships with IndiaÆs blue chip clients such as Kumar Mangalam Birla group, Tata group, ICICI and Infosys were nurtured by him. He was appointed on the board of directors of DSP Merrill Lynch in 2004. After Merrill Lynch increased its stake in DSP Merrill Lynch earlier this year, Chandra was named head of global markets and investment banking for India and in this role was responsible for equity, debt, investment banking and principal investments.

In 2005, DSP Merrill Lynch lost Rajeev Gupta, Chandra's co-head of investment banking, to Carlyle's buyout fund where he joined as managing director. Recently, Warburg Pincus India witnessed the departure of highly respected Pulak Prasad who left to start up his own firm. With financial sponsors increasing their focus on India, investment banking has become the natural poaching ground for these firms. And, increasingly, the entrepreneurial instinct of young professionals in India is leading them to prefer to be involved in building an institution rather than be a small part of a large, established franchise.

Chandra has a bachelors degree in engineering from Bombay University and an MBA from Boston College.
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