Goldman Sachs's co-head of Asia investment banking, Richard Ong, is leaving in March, after 15 years at the firm.
Ong, 42, could not be reached for comment, but fellow bankers say he will likely show up in the region in a few month’s time as “a private-equity guy”.
Several sources say that Ong is likely to join Fang Fenglei, Goldman's Chinese partner who is starting up a private equity fund (called the Hopu Fund) in China. Ong has publicly denied this -- but, say sources, this may just mean that the agreement isn't finalised. It's likely they will work together.
“He’s a deal maker,” says one banker. An industry colleague added that he’s no doubt, “making plans to make more money by doing less work”. According to a memo circulated internally that FinanceAsia has seen, Ong has agreed to become an advisory director to the firm effective March.
Ong, who was also described by colleagues as a man “who grew up in Goldman” and is “Goldman through and through”, steadily climbed the investment banking ladder of the firm. He joined Goldman in 1993 in Hong Kong as a vice president in the investment banking division; he was named a managing director in 1996 and became a partner in 2000. In 2002, he moved to Singapore where he became co-president of the Singapore office and oversaw the investment banking franchise across Southeast Asia. He was named co-head of the division for Asia ex-Japan in 2006 when he relocated to Beijing. Hong Kong-based Mark Machin is the firm's other co-head of investment banking for the region.
Goldman has not announced a replacement for Ong. Two years ago, it made sense to put a co-head of the firm in Beijing, as it sent a strong message to clients and regulators that the firm was committed to Beijing business. But that message has been sent, not just by putting a high-ranking person on the ground but also by doing business in China. So now, one of the questions the firm needs to weigh is do you still put a senior level partner in the mainland, or can that person be based elsewhere in the region?
It’s likely we’ll hear a Goldman announcement in the weeks to come.