Merry go round in Asian loan syndication

Rumours suggest Chinatrust is about to add another senior loan syndicator to its fast growing ranks.

The hiring merry go round in the Asian syndicated loan market reached fever pitch this week with both HSBC and Standard Chartered announcing new hires. Phil Lipton has joined HSBC as head of distribution following the departure of Eleanor Li. Lipton joins from Banca Intesa prior to which he spent seven years at Standard Chartered.

At Standard Chartered, Grance Wong has been promoted to head of distribution for North East Asia. Bruce Fung has come in to replace her as an associate director after leaving his position at Mizuho Corporate Asia (Hong Kong) where he was involved with loan distribution and sales.

These moves came about following the resignation of Stephen Ching. The loan market stalwart came to Standard Chartered for his second stint after a spell at Credit Lyonnais in Hong Kong.

While no official statement has been made the rumour mill seems to suggest that Ching is heading to Chinatrust. One senior banker claimed that it was "90% sure" while others were convinced that this is his final destination.

This would add his name to a long list of hires the Taiwanese bank has made of late, as it looks to strengthen its Asian loan presence. The capture of the loan team from Citibank in Taipei last year sparked this hiring spree.

Richard Tan was taken from Bank of America at the back end of last year and recently Geoffrey Wong trod the same path. Bankers claim that other new employees include Jessie Ko from Standard Chartered and Eugene Lau from Credit Lyonnais.

Most of these have been based in Hong Kong - with Tan believed to be moving back from Taipei shortly. Ching, on the other hand, will be relocated to Taipei where he is expected to stay for at least a year.

Some market participants are not convinced aobut Chinatrust's strategy. They claim it makes little sense for the bank to beef up its Hong Kong desk as there are few opportunities in the Hong Kong market and the China door may still be closed due to political issues.

Other suggest it may allow the Taiwanese house to gain a foothold in the South East Asian business. This is currently handled by its offshore banking unit, but it may allow the bank to be more aggressive in bidding for these mandates.

This aggressive hiring strategy has been beneficial for the bank so far as it has gained some high profile mandates. One such highlight was its mandated arranger role on the lucrative Taiwan Broadband transaction last year.

In addition it stands in sixth place in the Asia ex Japan league table for 2004 with $682m from 11 deals, with a further 13 still in syndication, according to Dealogic. This compares with 16th position with a total of a shade over $1bn from 19 transactions in 2003.