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Goldman poaches Mandarin speaking Morgan Stanley exec for Asia

In one of Asia’s biggest hiring coups this year, Goldman Sachs has poached Kate Richdale, Morgan Stanley’s head of Asia-Pacific investment banking, according to an internal memo sent to Goldman staff.

The 13-year Morgan Stanley veteran, who is joining Goldman as a partner and head of investment banking services for Asia ex-Japan in June, is admired for the strength of her client ties, in particular with Temasek, Singapore’s state-owned investment company.

Headhunters in Hong Kong said Richdale’s ability to speak Mandarin has helped her forge relationships with Chinese clients, setting her apart from other Western bankers and ultimately helping her secure her new role. Hong Kong employers are increasingly seeking Mandarin speakers with clients on the mainland.

Richdale’s language skills were one reason why her new Goldman role would remain client-based, said Jens Soderlund, managing partner at Hong Kong search firm Sirius Partners. “Kate will be responsible for covering clients in the region and for further strengthening our network of trusted advisory relationships,” said the memo, which was sent to Goldman staff on Thursday and forwarded to eFinancialCareers. Goldman did not comment further.

“She is a hands-on banker and greatly valued for her networks,” said a headhunter in Hong Kong who asked not to be named because of client confidentiality. “This is clearly not an example of a non-Asian leader focusing purely on management, while delegating China-client tasks to local staff below them.”

At a time when Western expats are being passed over for jobs in Asia, Richdale boasts the type of regional experience that most can only dream of. She’s a UK passport holder, was born in Hong Kong and forged a successful career in Asia that led to her appointment as Morgan Stanley’s Asia investment-banking boss in March 2011.

What made Richdale jump ship? The Wall Street Journal cited clashes with Morgan Stanley’s co-chief executive for Asia Pacific, Wei Sun Christianson.

“But the main driver behind this hire is that she made partner at Goldman, which is a totally different ball game to other jobs in investment banking,” Soderlund from Sirius Partners said. The Wall Street bank has about 450 partners globally.

The anonymous headhunter said other reasons for Richdale to leave might include Morgan Stanley’s slump in the rankings for core investment banking revenues outside Japan. It fell from sixth place in 2011 to ninth place in 2012, according to Dealogic.

Morgan Stanley has cut some 10 per cent of its investment-banking and global capital markets staff in Asia as part of plans to trim 1,600 people globally. “It’s hard to link Kate’s leaving directly with these job losses, but they are causing anxiety within the bank in Hong Kong,” the headhunter added. Morgan Stanley did not respond to a request for comment.

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