More top-level changes at Merrill in Asia

Jayanti Bajpai and Jiro Seguchi will be jointly accountable for corporate and investment banking in Asia, taking over from Jim Forbes who replaced Damian Chunilal in November.

In what appears to be a game of musical chairs underway at Merrill Lynch, Jayanti Bajpai and Jiro Seguchi will become jointly responsible for corporate and investment banking in the Asia-Pacific region, according to an internal memo seen by FinanceAsia. Their appointments are effective immediately.

Back in November, before Merrill was absorbed into Bank of America, Damian Chunilal, Merrill's then chief operating officer for the Pacific Rim and head of Pacific Rim investment banking, left the firm after failing to make the shortlist to become the new head of investment banking in the region. That role eventually went to Jim Forbes, who has been with Merrill for close to 14 years and who, prior to moving to Asia, was head of global healthcare investment banking, based in New York.

But now Forbes will be "returning to the US from Hong Kong due to the health of a family member and will be exploring other opportunities inside the company", according to the memo which was issued last night (Hong Kong time).

Bajpai will focus on Asia-Pacific (ex-Japan) corporate and investment banking, while Seguchi will look after investment banking in Japan. Prior to Forbes's appointment, Seguchi was head of origination in Japan, so this new title means he effectively goes back to running the investment banking business in Japan, insiders say. Japan corporate banking will continue to be led by Shigeo Nishimo, who reports to Stefan James, head of Asia-Pacific corporate banking -- corporates.

Bajpai and Seguchi will both report to Andrea Orcel, who is president for international global banking and wealth management as well as head of international corporate and investment banking. 

An internal announcement outlining the new Asia-Pacific corporate and investment banking organisational structure under Bajpai and Seguchi is expected shortly. But for now, scant details are available.

Forbes had been described as a deal maker, but he was not an old Asia hand. Bajpai, by comparison, has a long track record in the region, but he also has experience from New York and London, making him a true global banker.  

Bajpai joined Merrill Lynch in 1987 and has spent his entire career at the firm. His first job was in New York where he was part of the corporate finance team working primarily on financings across the product spectrum. But then, in 1994, he moved to Singapore to join the Indian coverage effort, working closely with Merrill's investment banking joint venture in India, DSP Merrill Lynch  He also worked on several other financing transactions in the Asia-Pacific region before relocating to London in 1999 as part of the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) corporate finance team and becoming its co-head in 2002. 

In 2006 he became chief operating officer of EMEA and in 2007 was appointed head of India investment banking, later becoming head of Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa investment banking as well. Some of the key transactions Bajpai has worked on include: Dubai Ports' $5 billion IPO, copper and zinc producer Sterlite's $2 billion ADR and Italian carmaker Fiat's €1.8 billion rights offering.

"Let's just say that his [Bajpai's] appointment is likely to be met with more approval from bankers here," says one insider. "He knows people here and is respected in the region."

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