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Morning Coffee: More M&A hiring to come at UBS in Hong Kong

UBS is likely to bolster its M&A team in Hong Kong during the post-bonus period early next year as Alison Harding-Jones, the veteran UBS London banker who is moving to Hong Kong in January, takes up the reins as head of Asia Pacific M&A.

As we reported last week, UBS has recently poached several senior bankers globally, luring them across with the promise of increased ambition in advisory under CEO Andrea Orcel. Revenue at the firm’s corporate client-solutions unit, which includes advisory, underwriting and financing businesses, rose 46% in the third quarter.

Asia appears crucial to the Swiss bank’s advisory plans. The bank’s head of corporate client solutions for Asia Pacific, Matthew Hanning, wrote in an internal memo quoted in Bloomberg last week that “increasing market share” in Asia was a priority and that Harding-Jones’ appointment would “serve to increase the depth of the senior bench available to our clients”. Increases are certainly needed – while industry-wide Asia Pacific M&A volumes have reached a seven-year high of US$672bn so far this year, UBS is only ninth in the regional M&A league tables, down from fourth in 2013, according to Dealogic figures quoted in Finance Asia.

Harding-Jones’ arrival is not likely to spark a flurry of other international transfers to UBS in Hong Kong. The bank will instead attempt to rise up the advisory tables by hiring predominately locally-based M&A bankers who have both China and cross-border experience, say headhunters in Hong Kong. UBS and its global rivals are trying to capture market share from Chinese companies currently expanding abroad and they need bankers who can build relationships with these businesses. Morgan Stanley, BNP Paribas and J.P. Morgan have all made senior China-focused IBD appointments in recent months.

At the top of the IBD tree, however, Western bankers like Harding-Jones are still valued for their managerial abilities, technical banking skills and ability to influence decision making at head office.


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