Simon Fry becomes CEO of Crosby

In one of the bigger moves of the year so far, Simon Fry joins his old Nomura colleague, Ilyas Khan at boutique investment bank Crosby.

Crosby has announced that Simon Fry is to become its new CEO. He will be based in London and will oversee the firm's non-Asian expansion.

For those in Asia not aware of Fry, he is something of a legend in London investment banking circles. While at CSFB and Nomura in the 1990s he and his team ran a series of proprietary investment portfolios. He is credited with being one of the first to see that convertible bonds were inherently mis-priced, with investors getting little value out of the equity option embedded in the instrument. He created the asset swap and relative value trading systems to which nearly everyone in the market now adheres.

Fry left Nomura in May 2000, which he says was just coincidence rather than market timing, although it seems a touch difficult to believe given that he had amassed a $100 million fortune by calling the market right. For the last three years he has been building a health club business in London called KX Gyms and reportedly spending a lot of time on his yacht.

So why come back to the markets now?

"In the last two or three years we've seen a major correction in the business and things are begging to be done again," he says. "The spread has come back into the business."

With everything that has gone wrong in the last few years, from wars and pestilence to corporate bankruptcies and regulatory crackdowns, asset prices have gone "haywire", he says.

"In the 1990s it was very easy, spreads came down, and multiples went up. But in the last few years we've had every problem you could imagine. From the outside it all looks very unpleasant, but I think that there are actually some great opportunities out there."

At Crosby he will be running the firm's non-Asian business. In particular he points to helping out with the firm's business in cross border M&A into and out of China. He will also be setting up a fund in London looking to do relative value investing.

He will be recruiting a team to help him and regularly coming out to Hong Kong.

At Crosby he will be rejoining forces with Ilyas Khan with whom he worked at Nomura. Khan is managing director of the Asian investment banking business. Johnny Chan runs the firm's $400 million asset management business.

"Crosby has the benefit of being a boutique present in certain niches than can be expanded," Fry adds. Indeed for someone who has made a career in spotting relative value trades, a move to an Asian focused boutique investment bank looks like a very clear bet on Asia's future prosperity.

For Crosby, it is a further endorsement that the firm created out of the dotcom shell of Techpacific, is now going places in the business.

Ex colleagues are fulsome in their praise of Fry, even if it is perhaps tinged with a little jealousy. "Simon is one of the few people in this industry who's got it right," says an ex-colleague. "He made a pile of money, he didn't get involved in office politics and then he retired at 40 to go and do something completely different." There must be big prospects that have drawn him back.

"I can see what can be done in these markets," Fry concludes wryly.

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