Loh Boon Chye: The flow monster cometh

By:
Anuj Gangahar
Published on:

Veteran lured away from Deutsche; Signals BAML ramping up effort in Asia

Loh Boon Chye, one of Asia’s best-known bankers, will join Bank of America Merrill Lynch next month, in the latest sign that the bank is getting serious about a region where it has struggled to make a meaningful impact.

Securing the services of the Deutsche Bank veteran, widely known as the flow monster, is a coup. BAML has punched below its weight in Asia-Pacific and his appointment along with several other recent senior hires suggests it is intent on improving its standing quickly.

The bank does not figure in the top 10 for investment banking revenue for Asia ex-Japan and Australasia for the year to date. Considering that last year BAML achieved the second-highest revenues of any bank globally behind JPMorgan, this amounts to severe underperformance. In debt capital markets, the bank again misses out on the top 10 whereas in ECM it ranks ninth and in M&A seventh, according to data from Dealogic.

The investment banking business in Asia has historically been led by equities. But with the fallout from the financial crisis, coupled with the crisis in the eurozone and continuing global macroeconomic uncertainty, equity markets have been volatile. As a result, banks in Asia have been concentrating on other areas, particularly debt capital markets, as they wait for a return to more stable days for equities.

Boon Chye will become deputy president for Asia Pacific and head of Asia Pacific Global Markets. He will also assume the country executive role for Singapore and southeast Asia and serve on the Asia Pacific executive committee. He is unlikely to have come cheap, his close ties to regulators and potential clients across Asia having made him a valuable asset.

He will report to Matthew Koder, president for Asia at BAML. Koder himself joined the bank last year and was promoted to his current position in March this year. Tom Montag, co-chief operating officer of BAML, wrote in a memo that Koder has had a "tremendous impact", helping to reshape and refocus the business in Asia. Koder played a central role in building the much admired equity capital markets business of UBS into a regional powerhouse that is consistently at or close to the top of investment bank ranking tables.

A fast-talking Australian rare-book collector who is married to a daughter of Canning Fok, the Hong Kong entrepreneur and right-hand man of Li Ka-shing, Hong Kong’s wealthiest man, Koder is making his presence felt slowly but surely. Earlier this year he appointed Rodney Ward, previously vice-chairman of the investment bank at UBS, to the position of chairman of Asia Pacific corporate and investment banking at BAML. Another former UBS executive, Stephen Gore, has also joined BAML to head its M&A unit.

UBS sits atop the ranking table for investment banking revenue in Asia for the year to date, with net revenue of $217 million and a market share of 3.6% ahead of Credit Suisse, Citic Securities, HSBC and Citi.

Loh Boon Chye, one of Asia’s best-known bankers, will join Bank of America Merrill Lynch next month
Loh Boon Chye, one of Asia’s best-known bankers, will join Bank of America Merrill Lynch next month
Boon Chye brings more than 20 years’ experience in the region working across investment banking and capital markets. He had been head of corporate and investment banking for Deutsche Bank Asia Pacific since 2010. Before this he spent eight years as the head of Deutsche’s global markets business in Asia, during which time he built its markets platform.

Boon Chye, a Singaporean, began his career in finance as an investment officer with the Monetary Authority of Singapore in 1989 and in 1992 joined the Singapore branch of Morgan Guaranty Trust of New York, managing its southeast Asia fixed-income and derivatives business.

"The Asia Pacific region offers us an unprecedented opportunity in terms of profitability and growth," wrote Koder, in a memo announcing Boon Chye’s appointment. Beyond his career at Deutsche, Boon Chye has played a big part in the development of the capital markets in southeast Asia, having held a number of senior advisory positions. He was the deputy president of ACI Singapore, the financial markets association, in 1999, and he was a non-independent director of the Singapore Exchange from 2004 to 2012. He was also a council member at the Institute of Banking & Finance Singapore and until recently he chaired the Singapore Foreign Exchange Market Committee.

Boon Chye is most often described by those who know him as a quiet and unassuming character, slightly at odds with his nickname. He was given Euromoney’s award for outstanding contribution to financial markets in Asia in 2010.