RBS rebuilds India corporate finance team

After losing several key members of its advisory team to rival banks, RBS appoints Manoj Agarwal to lead its corporate finance effort in India.
Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) has moved quickly to plug holes in its India corporate finance team, and the seniority and global experience of the new appointments reinforce the criticality of the India business.

RBS announced yesterday that it will transfer Manoj Agarwal from Hong Kong to head global corporate finance in India. Reporting to Agarwal will be Anjani Kumar, who has been flown in from ABN AMRO in London to head M&A, and Dilip Kadambi, who will head equity capital markets. Also joining the ECM effort is Varsha Valecha, a veteran with 14 years investment banking experience. Valecha has been poached from Enam.

Agarwal will be based in Mumbai and will report regionally to Richard Orders in Hong Kong. Orders was appointed head of corporate sectors and advisory for Asia-Pacific post the RBS-ABN AMRO integration. Locally, Agarwal will report to Madan Menon, the head of global banking and markets at RBS in India, who is on secondment from RBS, Singapore to ABN AMRO, India while the Scottish bank awaits regulatory approvals in the country.

Agarwal has over 15 years of investment banking experience in India and the rest of Asia. He is currently based in Hong Kong and responsible for financial sponsor-led M&A in Asia. Agarwal joined ABN AMRO in India in 2001 from Kotak Mahindra Capital. At Kotak Mahindra he was co-head of telecom, media and technology investment banking.

Kumar has 13 years of experience spanning both M&A and ECM. He joined ABN AMRO in 2000 and moved with the Dutch bank to London in 2004. Kadambi has over 12 years experience, the past three at ABN AMRO and before that at Kotak Mahindra.

RBSÆs willingness to move its best and brightest talent from offices such as Hong Kong and London corroborates how large the investment banking opportunity in India is and, further, how the bank is keen not to lose the momentum it has already created. ABN AMROÆs India corporate finance effort is on a good wicket currently, having closed advisory mandates such as Tata Steel-Corus and Suzlon-REpower. The bank also advised a GMR-led consortium in its winning bid to develop IstanbulÆs second airport. On the back of these successes, the bank has a roster of clients eager to pursue M&A deals.

"Our business in India combines both onshore and cross-border, across the wholesale side of our business," says RBS's Menon. "We have a strong M&A / ECM franchise globally and sectorally, to support our business in India and a large pool of talent within ABN AMRO (from the enlarged RBS Group) that we can deploy from other markets to support our clients."

RBS's move also reflects the bloodbath ABN AMRO has experienced in India over the past few weeks. At the end of April Australia-headquartered investment firm Babcock & Brown poached six people from ABN AMRO's India corporate finance team including the firmÆs then head of M&A, Manikkan Sangameswaran. The bankÆs head of corporate finance in the country, Frank Hancock, also jumped ship a few days ago when Barclays Capital raided ABN AMROÆs corporate finance team worldwide.

The strategy of bringing in resources with a background both in India and in ABM AMRO offices across the globe is probably intended to ensure the new team is both integrated into the global effort and can hit the ground running with respect to deals currently under execution.

Some market commentators had observed that ABN AMROÆs success in winning India mandates was in part attributable to the bankÆs willingness to put its balance sheet to work for its clients. And RBS is keen to reiterate that it shares this vision with respect to building the business.

ôWe continue to see outbound acquisition interest both from large companies and from mid-cap and emerging large-cap companies and have a strong pipeline of deals currently being executed,ö says Menon. ôRBS is committed to continuing to work with these clients to ensure they are successful in achieving their ambitions. We believe the blend of a strong client roster, a healthy balance sheet and sound risk management solutions positions us uniquely in this respect.ö
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