In a move that emphasizes a renewed commitment to the Greater China area, Lehman Brothers has created a new country head role in Hong Kong, which Kirk Sweeney will assume.
Sweeney is currently co-head of fixed incomes sales and in his 12 years with Lehman has held senior positions including head of Asia ex-Japan research, head of equity sales and head of capital markets sales. He has lived in Hong Kong for 14 years.
Sweeney says the philosophy behind creating the new Hong Kong country head role is part of Lehman's new "one firm" approach. "We want to further enhance our ability to get our business divisions to work together to provide client solutions. So this job will be a very client-focused one, and it is testimony to how important we believe Hong Kong to be as a financial centre."
It has been many years since Lehman has had such a senior role in Hong Kong. The firm used to run Asia from Hong Kong in the days when Dan Tyree was the regional boss. But after the big man's departure, Lehman moved most its senior officers to Tokyo, concentrating all of its risk positions there. As for in the rest of Asia it carved out some profitable niche businesses (such as in distressed debt) and de-emphasised those businesses where it was necessary to chase league table.
Sweeney says Lehman is now "staffing up in Hong Kong to meet the opportunity," adding that in the last 18 months it has "grown resources meaningfully" in the cash equities business, equity derivatives, equity finance and in interest rate and credit derivatives.
In his new role, Sweeney hopes to coordinate an approach where both Hong Kong corporates and the Hong Kong corporate banking community are better served. "We see equity markets in Hong Kong continuing to perform well and there are opportunities with the local banks to deliver our structuring capability."