Rankin is going to Deutsche Bank

Rob Rankin is to join the German bank as CEO for Asia-Pacific, while Colin Grassie plans to return to Europe.
 Rob Rankin
Rob Rankin

After more than six months of largely bad news on the employment front -- here is an announcement that is a true win-win for both the bank and the individual. Deutsche Bank is in the process of finalising a contract to hire former senior UBS banker Robert Rankin as CEO for Asia-Pacific (ex-Japan, but including Australia).

Here is why the announcement is a coup. Rankin used to run the Asia-Pacific investment banking division for UBS. While at UBS, he was well known as a dealmaker who was able to juggle four transactions and keep his eye on the next six. A conversation with Rankin is an exercise in itself -- he's so genuinely excited about his projects that you can't help but get caught up. And when you're finished talking to him, you feel as if you've run a marathon. He's a deal man.

So, Deutsche Bank gets the opportunity to scoop up a truly senior banker who has his finger on the pulse. The German bank -- having not taken any government money to date -- is signalling it will have the money and the risk tolerance to invest in deals that Rankin believes in.

At the same time, Rankin gets a bigger job. "This is a very broad regional remit," says a source close to the negotiations. "Rob will bring enormous experience to the job but he's also taking on a very senior role within Deutsche Bank so this is a big step forward in his career."

Deutsche Bank has roughly 18,000 employees in Asia-Pacific, excluding Japan but including Australia.

Deutsche Bank officials declined to comment on this story. And so did Rankin, who is currently on vacation with his family after resigning from UBS in the first half of March.

Sources close to the negotiations say Rankin will succeed Colin Grassie, who plans to return to Europe in a senior role with Deutsche Bank. The hiring of Rankin could be announced later this month, however he is not likely to begin the new job for some months as he will still be on gardening leave.

Speculation about where Rankin would turn up has been a hot topic in investment banking circles. Many figured Rankin would likely take one of the head jobs around the region and Deutsche Bank and Barclays Capital were obvious choices. The rumours that Grassie was ready to leave the region have been around for some time, which is why Deutsche Bank was a likely alternative; at the same time Barclays Capital's head of Asia-Pacific investment banking, Darcy Lai, left the firm in early March. Of the two, Barclays is a smaller franchise than Deutsche Bank, so most put their money on the latter option. Barclays is said to still be interviewing candidates to replace Lai. 

These changes on the investment banking front are part of a larger trend of banks reorganising themselves and -- partly as a result of that -- of high-up bankers leaving for firms that might be a better fit in the new financial environment. Invariably, the reorganisation includes relocating more top guns for jobs out here, taking two old-Asia hands and giving them a shared title, or even adding new jobs because, relative to the rest of the world, Asia is looking pretty good. The moves show the direction each firm thinks is its best bet.

For example, when Rankin left UBS in early March, the firm announced that he would be succeeded by David Chin and Matthew Hanning, who became joint heads of investment banking for Asia. Both are based in Hong Kong and have extensive experience in M&A banking -- Chin led UBS's financial institutions group and Hanning had headed up mergers and acquisitions and corporate finance since he joined from Morgan Stanley in 2006. In addition to Chin and Hanning, UBS added yet another layer. It appointed Henry Cai to a new role as chairman of investment banking for Asia, a job that he took on in addition to his current role as head of investment banking for China. That signals the firm is still putting its eggs in the China basket.

Over at Credit Suisse, Paul Raphael, who was head of the investment banking department (IBD) for Asia-Pacific for close to two years, also resigned in mid-March, although he is reportedly still in talks with the firm about a new posting. Raphael was replaced by Vikram Malhotra and Helman Sitohang who were appointed co-heads of IBD; both have years of experience at the firm in Asia. Malhotra was involved in the dual-listing initial public offering for Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, which at $22 billion is still the largest IPO in the world. And Sitohang is the investment banker to turn to in Indonesia if you want to know what's what. Credit Suisse clearly saw that its Asia bench was deep and decided it didn't need to relocate bankers from other parts of the world.

And Citi, as part of its efforts to consolidate the corporate bank with the investment bank, announced a reorganisation in February. Mark Renton, former co-investment banking head for Asia-Pacific, became global co-head of the public sector group, while the job of heading up global investment banking for Asia-Pacific, which Renton shared with Dan McNamara, was eliminated as part of the restructuring. Instead, Farhan Faruqui was appointed head of global banking, Asia-Pacific -- global banking integrates Citi's corporate and investment bank in Asia-Pacific including Japan. This consolidation shows the rising importance of the commercial banking side of its business, but also that it didn't need to import talent.

Arguably the earliest to reorganise upper management in the region was Goldman Sachs, which in June announced that two senior bankers from London and New York were joining the Asia ex-Japan investment banking team. It was a move that many saw as an acknowledgement by the firm that, if any part of the world was going to manage to continue doing business during this global downturn, it was Asia. So in July, Ravi Sinha relocated to Hong Kong from New York to become co-head of the investment banking division in Asia ex-Japan, together with Mark Machin. And in August, Richard Campbell-Breeden relocated to Hong Kong from London to become co-head of M&A in Asia ex-Japan, alongside Johan Leven. Last month, the firm said that Machin was relocating to Beijing to help build the bank's business in China -- a move that outsiders say indicates that there's not enough room for so many chiefs in Hong Kong. They need to be spread around the region.

The hiring of Rankin underscores Deutsche Bank's intention to build its business in Asia, particularly its public market capital-raising and M&A advisory services. Initially an M&A lawyer, Rankin joined UBS in Australia in 1990 and moved to Hong Kong in 2000 to head up the investment banking team focused on telecoms, media and technology. He became co-head of Asia investment banking in 2003 and sole head of the same division in 2004, when his fellow co-head Peter Burnett moved on. In January this year, his investment banking coverage widened from head of Asia to head of Asia-Pacific as Australia was also included under his leadership.

Under his guidance, UBS built a strong domestic Chinese investment banking business, and the bank was ranked first by Dealogic last year in terms of investment banking revenue in Asia ex-Japan with $409 million. By contrast, Deutsche Bank ranked sixth in Asia with $226 million in revenue, according to Dealogic, which tracks financial activity.

Rankin's appointment also continues a trend of Deutsche Bank cherry-picking bankers from other firms. In February the bank announced that Richard Gibb would join as one of four new managing directors in its financial institutions group (FIG), which is part of the global banking division. He became co-head of FIG in Asia-Pacific, working alongside Bill Nicholl, the other FIG co-head for the region. Gibb joined from Merrill Lynch where he was previously head of FIG for Asia-Pacific as well as head of the financial sponsors group for the region. He was one of 12 new hires to join the German bank's global FIG team, all of whom came from Bank of America-Merrill Lynch. Deutsche has reportedly hired at least 25 senior bankers from weakened rivals globally since late last year. It is clear Deutsche Bank is building up in the region. Stay tuned to see how Rankin guides the business.

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