Thain ally leaves Bank of America

Nelson Chai, an ally of John Thain, leaves the post of president of Bank of America's Asia-Pacific operations. Ki Myung Kim Hong takes up the role.

Just five weeks after Nelson Chai was appointed as president of Bank of America's Asia-Pacific operations, he is stepping down.

Ki Myung Kim Hong, BoA's chief risk officer in Asia-Pacific, will take up Chai's job.

Chai worked with former Merrill Lynch chief executive John Thain at the New York Stock Exchange, and then followed Thain to Merrill, so it comes as no surprise that since Thain was pushed out of BoA by chief executive Ken Lewis on January 23, Chai decided to resign.

One rival banker says, "You could view this as a case of Bank of America and Merrill Lynch bankers not blending well together, but it's more likely a straightforward case of a guy leaving because his friend and ally was pushed out. The writing was clearly on the wall in big bold letters."

Chai had been Merrill Lynch's chief financial officer up until the time the Bank of America deal was struck. When he didn't get to retain that title in the newly merged bank, he was given the Asia role. Bankers in Hong Kong say that while he had "visited Asia and met everyone he needed to meet" he hadn't yet moved to Asia. 

A spokesperson at Merrill Lynch declined to comment.

Hong is based in Hong Kong, and unlike Chai who was moving out here from New York, he has extensive experience in the region. Hong joined Bank of America in 2007 as head of global markets for Asia. In July 2008, he was appointed president of Asia-Pacific where he was responsible for Bank of America's overall businesses in 12 countries across the region.

Since the acquisition of Merrill Lynch, he has served as chief risk officer for Asia-Pacific. A new chief risk officer for the region will be named shortly, according to sources at the bank.

"Kim brings to the table over 25 years of industry experience, intimate knowledge of the region's markets and strong leadership qualities," says Brian Moynihan, president, global banking and wealth management, in an internal announcement to staff that FinanceAsia has seen. "I have every confidence that he will effectively integrate the businesses of both organisations to deliver comprehensive solutions to clients and grow our business."

During his career, Hong has worked in a number of fixed income, equities, investment banking and structured product areas covering the London, Middle East and Asian markets. Prior to joining Bank of America, Hong was with J.P. Morgan, where he spent seven years in Hong Kong, Korea and Singapore. A Korean national, his assignments have included being country head for Korea. He has also worked at Citibank and Bankers Trust, where he was regional co-head of investment banking.

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