Never say never again

James Pearson returns to a resurgent ABN AMRO in a starring role.

Sean Connery coined the famous phrase 'Never say never again' when he reprised the role of James Bond in the film of the same title. They are words that veteran Asian banker, James Pearson no doubt appreciates.

When Pearson left ABN three and a half years ago to become a managing director at Morgan Stanley, he probably never expected to return to the Dutch firm. But such is life. He returns to ABN as head of corporate finance and rejoins old colleagues Richard Orders, Mathew Kirkby and Neil Galloway.

In his new role he will report to global head of corporate finance, Jeroen Drost and will have responsibility for M&A, advisory and the ABN side of the ECM JV with Rothschilds. He will have 55 professionals under him, and hopes to improve the firm's M&A penetration. At Morgan Stanley, Pearson was instrumental in running key M&A deals such as the SingTel acquisition of Optus in Australia and Emerson's acquisition of Huawei's subsidiary, Avansys Power.

Pearson is a colourful character. Known for his appearances at Morgan Stanley christmas parties dressed as Dame Edna Everage, Snow White and other non-male characters, he is also one of the most athletic bankers in Hong Kong. In fact, he regularly runs the MacLehose Trail, and this year his team finished in 15 hours 51 minutes, coming first in the mixed category and sixth overall (out of 975 teams). He is pictured (see photo) at the finishing line replenishing fluids.

He left Morgan Stanley this summer and some wonder whether Pearson was ever truly a "Morgan Stanley" banker at all. For example, a couple of years ago at the Hong Kong Sevens he was spotted defecting from the dull-as-ditchwater Morgan Stanley box, jumping ship to the UBS box next door, which was themed as an East End London pub. Asked by former colleague, Mark Dowie what the theme was supposed to be in the Morgan Stanley box, Pearson replied wryly "Um, I think it's investment banking."

It is thought Pearson was considering a return to London, but was persuaded to stay in the region as he saw markets pick up and opportunities like the ABN role crop up. He will start at ABN at the end of January and plans to ski and go on safari in South Africa in the coming weeks.

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