Everyone knows everybody in Hong Kongs banking firmament. So any time a bank can poach a senior member of staff or a team from a rival firm, it immediately becomes the talk of the financial town.
This was the case last month when Kate Richdale, head of investment banking for Asia Pacific at Morgan Stanley, left the bank after 13 years to join historical rival number one Goldman Sachs.
Richdale joins Goldman as head of investment banking services for Asia ex-Japan and will take responsibility for client coverage in the region.
Gossip about what the move meant was plentiful in the restaurants and bars of the special administrative region.
Was it the culmination of years of tension between Richdale and Wei Christianson, the co-chief executive officer at Morgan Stanley in Asia with whom she had endured a reportedly fraught relationship?
|Kate Richdale, head of investment banking for Asia Pacific at Morgan Stanley, left the bank after 13 years to join historical rival number one Goldman Sachs|
Does Richdales move say anything about the relative fortunes of the two banks in the recent past or their prospects for the future? Will it affect Morgan Stanleys relationship with Temasek the Singaporean sovereign wealth fund with which Richdale is known to enjoy close ties?
Sources close to Morgan Stanley suggested that Richdale was being lined up for an internal move to a role that was less management oriented and more client-focused playing to what the banks management saw as her strengths.
But when told of the plan, the sources said, Richdale said she would be making a similar switch in terms of her responsibilities but the role would be a lucrative one at Goldman Sachs, as a partner, rather than at Morgan Stanley.
As things stand, Morgan Stanley versus Goldman Sachs is not quite the top-of-the-table clash that it was before the global financial crisis hit. Latest figures show Goldman Sachs in seventh place in the investment banking fee table over the year to date and Morgan Stanley in 11th place.
Their net revenues are $63 million and $41 million respectively, compared with current market leader UBS with $130 million. Rival US banks are also some way clear of Goldman and Morgan Stanley; Citi has revenues of $89 million putting it in second place in the table; and JPMorgan occupies third spot with revenues of $83 million.
Market sources said both firms, since becoming bank holding companies, had been in a period of rebuilding, taking on more traditional lending business in some cases.
Both banks are still among the handful of preferred M&A advisers in the region frequently featuring in the top three in that business.
Richdale had been head of investment banking for Asia Pacific at Morgan Stanley since March 2011 and was co-head for two years before this. She previously served as chief executive for southeast Asia and head of global capital markets in Singapore and before that head of investment banking for southeast Asia at the US firm.
Richdale is replaced at Morgan Stanley by Dieter Turowski and Shane Zhang, who will serve as co-heads of Asia Pacific investment banking. Turowski was most recently global co-head of natural resources and Zhang was co-head of China investment banking.
At Goldman, Richdale will report to Dan Dees and Matthew Westerman, co-heads of investment banking. Tim Leissner, former Asia head of investment banking services, has been made vice-chairman of investment banking for the region.
In a lively period for people moves, Bank of America Merrill Lynch has hired two debt capital markets bankers from Credit Suisse as part of a reorganization of its Asian bond and loan arranging unit.
Devesh Ashra will join as head of Asia debt capital markets syndicate. Hital Desai will also move over from the Swiss bank as part of the bond syndicate team.
And as Richdale arrives at Goldman following a break, another veteran, Steven Barg, is set to leave Goldman in Asia to take up a newly created role in New York. The equity capital markets banker will move to the banks headquarters. It comes just six months after he took on a senior role in Singapore.
Barg will become head of M&A capital markets, a role that will involve advising the firms clients on the equity market implications of their merger and acquisitions activities, according to reports.
It marks a return to the US for an American citizen who spent his early career there.
Barg joined Goldman from UBS three years ago as co-head of equity capital markets in Asia in Hong Kong.
Goldman hired him, like Richdale, as a partner not a common occurrence for the US bank which famously prefers to hire and promote from within. At the time, securing Bargs services was viewed as a coup for Goldman as he had been part of the team that propelled UBS to the top of the equity capital markets business in Asia Pacific.