Large Chinese companies are increasingly hiring senior investment bankers – many of them based in Hong Kong – to help them with their takeovers, listings and international expansions. It’s a trend that started about three years ago and it shows no signs of abating, particularly within China’s technology sector.
Who are the bankers who’ve quit the bulge bracket for top jobs at Chinese conglomerates? Here’s a selection.
HNA International, a subsidiary of Fortune 500 company HNA Group (whose businesses include tourism, industrials, logistics and ecological technologies) appointed Barclays veteran Kwok in April last year as its chief investment officer. Kwan was with Barclays in Hong Kong from 2001 to 2016, latterly as co-head of investment banking for Asia Pacific and country manager of Hong Kong. He began his career at Goldman Sachs and has held various senior positions in markets and investment banking with Peregrine Fixed Income, TD Securities and Deutsche Bank.
Cheng has taken the banker-goes-corporate trend a step further – he’s now moved to a second Chinese tech business. Cheng, the former head of technology for Asia at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, was hired by electronics company LeEco as head of corporate finance and development in 2015, but the firm’s global expansion plans since floundered. In April last year, Cheng joined Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com as president of international. While at BAML, he worked on JD.com’s 2014 listing and also advised it when Tencent purchased a stake in the company. Cheng is also a former Goldman Sachs MD and was head of Asia ex-Japan technology at the US bank between 2007 and 2013.
Online lender Dianrong.com (formed in 2012 and often called the ‘Lending Club of China’) pulled off a recruitment coup in January last year when it poached three senior managers from the traditional finance sector. Loh, the biggest hire of the lot, was brought in as COO. He was previously deputy CEO at Standard Chartered in China and had been with the bank for 18 years. In December last year, Dianrong.com promoted Loh to CEO and he currently oversees all aspects of its day-to-day operations, including loan originations and servicing, investment products and marketplace lending solutions.
Evans is still the most well-known banker to join a Chinese corporate. He moved back in August 2015, helping to kick start the trend, and he took on arguably the most powerful Chinese corporate job ever occupied by a former bulge-bracket banker: president of Alibaba Group, the world's largest online retailer. Evans was vice chairman of Goldman Sachs, chairman of Goldman Sachs Asia and was a partner in the firm for 20 years. He was also a member of the Canadian men’s eights rowing team that won gold at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
Evans is far from the only Goldman banker to be poached by a Chinese conglomerate. Other high-profile hires include Douglas Feagin, who moved to Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial Services, China’s most valuable financial technology company, in 2016. Like many ex-bankers, Feagin was hired to lead a global expansion – he’s head of the firm’s international operations. Feagin had a 22-year career at Goldman Sachs, most recently as head of its financial institutions group for the Americas. He was also the head of FIG in Asia from 2004 to 2010.
Hong Kong-based Deutsche Bank MD Yau left the firm in February last year, after a tenure of more than 10 years, to join Heung Kong Financial Group as CEO. Heung Kong Financial – part of a wider conglomerate which covers industries from furniture to real estate – specialises in loan financing, funds management and equity investment. Yau began his career as an auditor at Arthur Andersen in 1996, before switching to investment banking with BNP Paribas in Hong Kong in 2000. He started at Deutsche six years later and his experience includes M&A, capital markets, derivatives and private equity.
James Mitchell, chief strategy officer at Tencent, China’s largest gaming and social-networking company, was formerly head of communications, media and entertainment research at Goldman Sachs in New York. He was with Goldman for 11 years and also worked at the firm in Hong Kong and Sydney. Tencent’s president, Martin Lau, also hails from Goldman, although he left the US bank more than 10 years ago.
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