Allegra Berman: The voice of experience

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By:
Louise Bowman
Published on:

As part of Euromoney's 50th anniversary coverage, we profile some of the biggest names that we interviewed for our April capital markets focus.

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IN ADDITION        


Allegra Berman, co-head of the securities services business at HSBC Holdings, is a well-known figure in the Euromarkets, having made her reputation in public-sector banking at a number of London firms. She joined CSFB on its graduate programme and subsequently worked for Barclays, UBS and HSBC. Berman was voted one of the top 25 most-influential bond market participants in May 2012 in a poll conducted by Euromoney’s sister magazine, GlobalCapital.

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Allegra Berman, HSBC

She cites three of her former colleagues as key mentors in her career. Firstly, Hans-Joerg Rudloff, who was chairman and chief executive at CSFB from 1989 to 1994 and joined Barclays Capital in 1998 as executive chairman. Also at Barclays, Berman worked with former managing director Abigail Hofman, who subsequently wrote a monthly column for this magazine for eight years from March 2006.

At UBS, where she worked from 2009, Berman became vice-chairman of global capital markets in May 2009, global head of sovereign, supranational and agency (SSA) fixed income in September 2009 and co-head of European DCM in July 2011. She cites Manfred Schepers as a key influence at the Swiss firm. On the client side, Frank Czichowski at KfW has also been an important influence.

Shock

Berman was at UBS during the financial crisis, but having lived through 1998, LTCM and Russia defaulting and the tech bubble of the early 2000s, she was well prepared when the crisis hit. Despite this, however, the experience was still quite a shock.

Many people interviewed for this issue of Euromoney have recalled that incomprehension they felt when the markets seized up in 2007, but this must have been particularly acute in public sector teams, for whom the creditworthiness of sovereign, supranational or agency entities had rarely been top of the list of considerations when putting a deal together. The concept that there would simply be no appetite for paper seemed inconceivable.

“In the past we had assumed that – at least for sovereigns – there was always a price in the market,” she tells Euromoney today. “But this time we saw that there wasn’t a price. That was really shocking. Investors just thought that they were catching a falling knife.”

Her close relationship with many public-sector issuers has stood her in good stead through many crises. “We did a dollar deal for the ADB [Asian Development Bank] at a very challenging time for borrowers, some of whom would clearly benefit by showing they could access the market,” she recalls of the Asian crisis in the late 1990s. “I encouraged the ADB to bring the deal and, to their credit, the team there went ahead and the institution benefited from it, but there are not many issuers that would have taken the plunge.”

Berman left UBS after it closed its SSA business in 2012. In September last year she became co-head with Richard Godfrey of HSBC’s $7.7 trillion securities services business after the death of former global head Cian Burke in a cycling accident.