UBS fills gaps with internal promotions

Stephen Gore will head M&A and corporate finance, while Saurabh Beniwal is to lead technology, media and telecommunications in the region.

UBS is promoting from within to fill gaps created by departures. Stephen Gore will head mergers and acquisitions and corporate finance for Asia, while Saurabh Beniwal will lead technology, media and telecommunications for the region.

In an internal memo seen by FinanceAsia, UBS announced that Stephen Gore, who is a managing director in Hong Kong currently mandated with heading financial sponsor coverage for the region, will take over as head of mergers and acquisitions and corporate finance for Asia. The vacancy has arisen because Matthew Hanning, who was hitherto doing the M&A job, has been promoted.

Gore has been in Hong Kong for three years and was an M&A banker with UBS in London before making the move to Asia. He took on the financial sponsor coverage role when Angus Barker departed UBS in August 2007 for Deutsche Bank.

The progression is a logical one given that financial sponsor deals have generally had a large M&A element. Further, private equity firms in the region, in tandem with the trend globally, have pulled back. Gore will continue to lead the charge for sponsors as well.

Meanwhile, on the technology, media and telecommunications front, Saurabh Beniwal has been elevated to Asia head.

James (Jim) Roth who was head of TMT for Asia-Pacific went on sabbatical in March. Roth has decided to take the opportunity of the slowdown in markets to spend time with his family. Roth is following a recent trend set by a number of other senior bankers who are taking time out from the industry to catch up on family time as business activity is slowing and compensation levels (at least for the near future) are shrinking. The bank says Roth, who has spent 11 years working at UBS, is currently scheduled to return to the Swiss bank in six months.

Beniwal joined UBS in 2000 in Hong Kong and initially worked in both telecoms and technology. In 2003, he was appointed head of the Asian technology group.

The internal announcement was made by David Chin and Matthew Hanning who were made joint heads of investment banking for Asia-Pacific in early March, when Rob Rankin announced he was leaving the firm.

The resignation of Rankin came as a surprise to some in the industry. Rankin took charge of investment banking in the region in 2003 as co-head and then became sole head in 2004 when Peter Burnett moved on.

But UBS is also beset with the balance sheet problems that are plaguing all investment banks currently. The Swiss firm reported a loss of SFr19.7 billion ($16.8 billion) for 2008 and has attributed this largely to losses in the fixed income, currencies and commodities areas in investment banking. Accordingly, the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (Finma), the banking regulator, which has been appointed by the Swiss government to approve bonus payments at UBS as part of the bank's bailout package, has directed UBS to reduce cash payments to employees in investment banking by 95%. Finma has also decreed that deferred compensation components be distributed over several years and only if defined conditions are met.

UBS has stated that investment banking remains a core business but that its strategy for investment banking is to reduce the use of its balance sheet. It has also said it will further shrink headcount in IB to 15,000 by the end of 2009 from around 17,000 currently. UBS has already exited a number of fixed-income businesses.

The fact that both Chin and Hanning have M&A backgrounds speaks to the investment banking product UBS will presumably focus on in coming months.

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