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People moves: Goldman hit by high-level departures

Big firms rush to boost headcount; UBS, BofA seen as most aggressive hirers

Asia’s latest round of post-bonus-season musical chairs has kicked off in earnest following last year’s washout. Investment bankers (and their temporary bosses at executive search firms) are jostling to boost both status and salary as the region’s economies continue to rebound.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch and UBS, two firms heavily geared toward the region, are boosting Asia headcount aggressively after retrenching just as rapidly during 2008 and 2009. Other banks are also hiring strongly, notably Barclays Capital and Morgan Stanley: on March 19 the latter sprang a five-strong team out of Standard Chartered including two origination bankers and a sales trader as it pushes further into Asia convertible bonds.

But the big loser in the latest merry-go-round is one of the few US banks to emerge from the credit crunch with a semblance of reputation intact: Goldman Sachs.


For Goldman, the first bombshell came on March 10 when Fred Hu, the bank’s Greater China chairman, announced that he would step down in April to start an as-yet-unnamed buyout firm. Hu, who joined Goldman in 1997 and was made partner in 2004 – one of the few Chinese nationals to rise to the company’s top echelons – is the latest mainland stalwart to leave the firm.

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