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Merrill Readies FX Push

Merrill Lynch is looking to increase its global fx staff by 50% this year--amounting to some 40 hires globally--in an effort to bolster a division that has traditionally lagged the firm's stellar performance in debt and M&A league tables. Cinta DelMonaco-Kemp, managing director and head of cash and derivatives fx trading in New York, said most of the hires will be in fx options sales and trading. It expects to start hiring after bonus season. "Clearly people on the Street need to get paid and then the process will begin," she explained.

Late last year, Merrill hired fx honcho Michael DeSa, formerly head of foreign exchange at Deutsche Bank, to head its fx business from New York. DeSa referred calls to DelMonaco-Kemp. "Previously we were much more of a silo business, we weren't coordinated across the firm," she acknowledged. But now the firm hopes to use fx as part of a broader business strategy, with DeSa working closely with others product heads.

"We will make sure that if a client has currency exposure that we are set up to capture that business," DelMonaco-Kemp said. For example, debt origination bankers will now offer fx swaps. Foreign exchange will remain part of the global debt group, she continued, noting that reporting lines have not changed.

DelMonaco-Kemp predicted Merrill will have no problem luring fx professionals. "We're one of the few places where you can be an a fx person and still have a growth opportunity. How much is fx going to grow at Goldman Sachs? It's done."

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