HONG KONG (Reuters) - UBS AG’s Asia business saw another veteran banker depart on Wednesday, as the region’s perennial equity underwriting powerhouse grapples with some recent big name departures across the company.
This time of year, after year-end bonuses are paid, it is common for bankers to jump ship to rivals and UBS has been embarking on a hiring spree of its own.
But the loss of senior leaders is always tough for an industry where banker-client relationships are key fee generators, no matter if the person left on their own or was asked to leave.
David Gray, the Hong Kong-based head of the UBS prime brokerage unit in Asia Pacific, has left, a spokesman confirmed on Wednesday. A replacement would be announced shortly, he added.
Gray, a 17 year UBS veteran, was a respected name in the industry, with UBS a top five prime brokerage house in the region, servicing the growing hedge fund community across Asia.
News of Gray’s departure came a day after Patrick Loftus-Hills, UBS’s co-head of the Asia Pacific industrials banking team, quit to join independent investment bank Moelis & Co.
Loftus-Hills was a key metals and mining banker, involved in several outbound China acquisitions into Australia, as well as other capital markets deals in the natural resources space.
“It will have some short-term impact on business when such rainmakers depart but over time it should be business as usual as UBS can hit back with its own set of senior hires in Asia,” said Ian Ramsey, Director of the Centre for Corporate Law and Securities Regulation at Melbourne University.
The Swiss bank has already been busy on the hiring front. On Wednesday it named Stuart Mackay as head of equity capital markets for Southeast Asia and unveiled other hirings in its team managing stock offerings, according to a source familiar with the matter.
The firm also hired Catherine Vannavong as a director for Hong Kong and Taiwan ECM from Bank of America Merrill Lynch, and appointed Kenneth Kwok, a former Deutsche Bank and Goldman Sachs executive, as president, Greater China for the investment banking unit on Wednesday, according to an internal memo.
UBS’s ECM busines has been the envy of rival investment banks as the Swiss bank has been the top Asia equities and equity-linked underwriter for the past six years, according to Thomson Reuters league tables.
Rivals have pointed to recent moves in its ECM group as potentially putting that reign at risk.
Earlier this month, UBS promoted Samuel Kendall as the ECM head for Asia Pacific and stripped John Sturmey of the co-head of global capital market title after Kendall threatended to quit and follow his former boss, Matthew Koder, to join Bank of America Merrill Lynch, IFR reported.
Inside the bank, Koder was credited with being a key architect and leader of UBS’s ECM dominance across Asia.
UBS brought over to Hong Kong from London its veteran investment banker Alex Wilmot-Sitwell as the co-CEO of Asia Pacific last year.
So far the defections haven’t had significant impact on UBS’s business in Asia. UBS has about 50 IPO mandates, a record for the Swiss bank, and is planning to boost its investment banking staff by 20 percent this year, said Matthew Hanning, UBS head of investment banking, Asia Pacific, in a Reuters interview last month.
UBS is No. 2 in year-to-date ECM rankings behind Goldman Sachs, according to Thomson Reuters data. For investment banks in Asia, IPOs and follow-on offerings account for about 70 percent of the total investment banking revenues.
(Additional reporting by Denny Thomas and Narayanan Somasundaram; Editing by Michael Flaherty and Lincoln Feast)