Asia’s Talent Wars

Jun 18 2008 | 2:00am ET

Asia is the fastest growing market for hedge funds. Prime brokerages are tripping over themselves to boost their capacity in the region, leading to a battle for talent among the top firms.

FINalternatives Prime Brokerage 2008FINalternatives Prime Brokerage 2008No firm has had more trouble holding on to its top executives in Asia than Merrill Lynch. The firm has lost three key people since January, starting with the departure of Melvyn Ford, its former head of Asian prime brokerage. But his exit was just the beginning: Deutsche Bank nabbed Harvey Twomey, former head of Pacific Rim equity financing and sales at Merrill, in February, while new mom Yvonne Wong—reportedly the longest-tenured capital introduction expert in Asia—is leaving both Merrill and the prime brokerage industry all together.

Meanwhile, some of its chief rivals are staking their claims to be the region’s top prime broker. Goldman Sachs said earlier this year that it now boasts five managing directors in its Asian prime brokerage, with plans for a series of major hires. Meanwhile, Credit Suisse last year snagged Morgan Stanley’s prime brokerage marketing chief in Japan, Yoji Koga, naming him head of prime brokerage services in that country.

Prime brokers don’t have to contend only with other prime brokers for talent: Last month, convertible arbitrage hedge fund shop CQS hired two Lehman Brothers Asian prime brokerage executives. And by all accounts, the Asian talent wars are far from over.

This article appeared in the June 2008 edition of
FINalternatives Prime Brokerage.

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