Morgan Stanley’s Asia IBD vice chair leaves

Chong Leong is joining China’s S.F. Express, the latest in a string of bankers opting out of high finance to pursue opportunities in the corporate world.

Chong Leong, a vice chairman of Morgan Stanley’s Asia Pacific investment banking division, has left the firm to join China’s S.F. Express, FinanceAsia learned on Tuesday form a person familiar with the matter.

Morgan Stanley Asia Pacific's shuffling of vice chairmen began last year with Sam Kim, who was promoted to the position last year. Ding Wei meanwhile recently joined the US investment bank in the role of vice chair from Singapore’s Temasek.

Leong is the latest investment banker to leave the industry to pursue opportunities at growing Chinese corporates, some of which are  expressing recruiting from the banking industry to help manage M&A activity in-house or pursue an IPO.

Earlier this year Winston Cheng, head of Asia TMT at Bank of America Merrill Lynch left to join China’s LeTV Holdings as a senior vice president and head of corporate finance and development.

In one of the more high profile departures, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba hired Michael Evans as the company's president, overseeing international expansion. Evans was a partner at Goldman Sachs for 20 years. He left the US investment bank in 2014 after serving as vice-chairman, as well as chairman of Asia.

Human respource consultants have attributed the trend to declines in banker pay scales and an increased risk of redundancies.

The new regulatory normal has also been fingered.

While there is lilttle consensus on the cause of the banking defections, the effect has become increasingly clear as the rolls of former bankers grows, with no sign of tapering. Earlier this year, Nikhil Eapen, previously head of Asia Pacific TMT at Citi, left the bank to join Temasek-owned ST Telemedia as its chief strategy and investment officer.

In August last year, Chinese taxi hailing app Didi Dache named Jean Liu, previously a managing director of Goldman Sachs’ Principle Investment Area in Asia as its chief operating officer. (Liu is now president of Didi Kuaidi, the company formed through the merger of Didi Dache and Kuaidi Dache).

Cheng’s predecessor Robert Chiu also left Bank of America Merrill Lynch for the tech world, joining Shanda Interactive Entertainment as president.

Shenzhen-based delivery services company S.F. Express has nearly 340,000 employees and is expanding oversees. The firm's success has been stoked by the boom in online shopping on the mainland in recent years, shifting into high gear with the launch of Alibaba's Taobao Mall in 2008, an event that catalysed the B2C and C2C e-commerce sectors.

S.F. Express has however kept a low-key media profile for years. In a rare interview with the Chinese-language newspaper Yang Cheng Evening News in 2011, the chairman Wang Wei said the company wasn’t planning an IPO in the near term as it would make the company appear “fickle”.

“IPOs are just for fundraising … SF Express does need capital, but we cannot go public [purely] for money,” he said. “As after the listing, the company will become a money-making machine. Movements in stock prices will make us nervous ... We have to be responsible for shareholders and ensure the stock continues to rise. The profit will become the only goal of the company.”

A Morgan Stanley spokeswoman confirmed that Chong has left the firm.

According to his LinkedIn page Leong joined Morgan Stanley in 2002. He did not respond to a request for comment.

Additional reporting by Julie Zhu

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