Abigail with attitude: The new Nomura
Matt Koder made his name in Asia. And there have been a few personnel changes in the region that caught my eye this month. At Morgan Stanley, David Russell, head of equities in Asia, moves to London to run EMEA equities. He will be replaced by Gokul Laroia, formerly co-head of Asia Pacific investment banking. Gokul’s co-head, Kate Richdale, becomes Morgan Stanley’s sole head of Asia Pacific investment banking. This announcement has caused debate, with commentators musing which of the co-heads had been promoted and which had been demoted. "They have both been promoted," my source intoned. "And please don’t even get me started on Kate’s supposed feud with Wei Christianson [who has just been promoted to co-CEO of Asia for the firm]. They’re both beautiful women who speak fluent Mandarin. Beautiful women can be like cats: they bristle if you put them too near each other."
I am very pleased for Richdale. In my January 2011 column, I described her as my "best new find of 2010". I am however humbled that another of my picks has fallen to earth with an unseemly bump. Last May, I chose Rachid Bouzouba, Nomura’s global co-head of equities, as a rising star. When we met, Rachid was moving from London to Hong Kong to be nearer his new boss, Jesse Bhattal, and was full of the joys of spring. No doubt the attractive Hong Kong tax regime contributed to his bonhomie.
Then last month came the bombshell that Benoit Savoret, a former Lehman EMEA chief operating officer, was joining Nomura with immediate effect as joint head of global equities reporting to Tarun Jotwani. Rachid, the official memo stated: "is discussing alternative roles with Nomura". A mole muses that an alternative role might not be enticing and Rachid may be spending the summer doing a yoga course in an exotic location. For some reason, I am reminded of the book Eat, Pray, Love, in which the heroine finds relief from an unhappy marriage by eating in Italy and meditating in India. From the beginning (and much to the fury of Nomura’s public relations department), I have never quite "got" the new Nomura. And this latest episode does nothing to change my mind.
First, why is Benoit’s co-head of equities, Naoki Matsuba, who I believe is a long-standing Nomura Japanese employee, not even mentioned in the memo? This omission is at best discourteous and at worst hints at the reverse-takeover mentality that imbues the good old Lehman boys. Secondly, how can Bouzouba have gone from hero to zero in less than a year? When I met Rachid, I believe he was running one of the few areas that was making money in the wholesale division. Thirdly, the memo talks about a promotion for Tarun Jotwani, who last year was appointed Nomura’s head of EMEA. "Tarun," it trumpets, "in recognition of his outstanding track record in building successful businesses, has been promoted to executive vice-president and head of global markets." EMEA was loss-making for Nomura last quarter but Jotwani also ran global fixed income and is seen to have done well in this role. A source whispers that Tarun is a FOJ (friend of Jesse). Cronyism brought Lehman down, I very much hope this insidious disease is not affecting Nomura. However, an insider insists that while Tarun may be close to Jesse Bhattal, he also has excellent relations with the senior Japanese management.
Jesse Bhattal has been elevated to deputy president of Nomura Holdings and chief executive of the wholesale division. This, according to some, makes him the third-most important person in the firm. In the quarter ending December 31 2010, Nomura’s wholesale division made only ¥10.8 billion ($132 million). This was up quarter on quarter but 78% lower than the respective quarter in 2009. Compensation costs continue to rise. Occasionally, I wonder if the shotgun acquisition of Lehman’s European and Asian operations might have been a deal too far for Nomura. I only hope that the Japanese employer is not being taken advantage of by the avaricious hired help.
How was your month? Please send news and views to Abigail@euromoney.com