RBS’ debt syndicate team experienced another loss after Valerie Lee, an associate on the desk, departed the bank in late August after four years at RBS. This leaves the team with two syndicate professionals in Asia ex-Japan, down from four a year earlier.
Singapore-based Lee left RBS to and joined Standard Chartered earlier this month, where she is an associate director on debt syndicate desk. She reports to Ashish Malhotra, head of Asia syndicate.
She had been at the bank for approximately four years, joining RBS as part of its graduate trainee programme.
Lee is the most recent Asia ex-Japan syndicate banker to have left RBS in 2013, out of a team that was four strong a year earlier.
Rogerio Bernardo, a director on the bond syndicate team, left the bank in July after 16 years at RBS. He joined DBS in a similar role.
Li Chao, a director on the syndicate desk, left RBS in the third quarter of after approximately five years at the bank. Healso joined Standard Chartered, where he is a director of debt syndicate, Greater China, based in Hong Kong.
Alan Roch, head of Asia Pacific debt syndicate at RBS, remains at the team. RBS appointed Roch to the role in September 2011, relocating him from the bank’s emerging market syndicate desk in London to Singapore, where he is now based.
To bolster the team, Roch hired a junior banker to cover the Asia ex-Japan market. RBS also has one syndicate banker in Australia and one in Japan. Sources close to the syndicate desk also expect to announce new hires soon.
Despite the churn, RBS has completed more deals this year. In 2013 to date, the bank has completed 24 G3 deals in Asia ex-Japan with proceeds reaching US$3.4 billion, according to data provider Dealogic. In 2012, it completed 20 deals amounting to US$2.3 billion during the same period.
"In the overall context of our DCM franchise, RBS has one of the best-staffed teams in Asia Pacific,” said Roch in an email response to Asiamoney PLUS. “Debt capital markets remain a core part of our franchise in Asia. This year, we have seen significant increase in our DCM business, both in bonds and in loans."
Sources outside the bank with knowledge of the changes say that RBS has had a strong presence in the regional bond markets, yet recent personnel changes have put pressure on the bank to keep their existing talent and hire new bankers.
“RBS is a good brand – they’re looking to get someone else to join…But the staff departures make things a bit tricky,” said a former RBS banker. “It’s a shame to see everyone leave. These are people who have been at the bank for years.”
Part of the reason why bankers have left the desk include uncertainty in RBS’ long-term strategy in Asia. This is based off of recent changes to the bank’s model in the region and worldwide – including the June 13 announcement that RBS would cut its equities derivatives and structured retail products business globally.
High-level departures in Asia and its UK headquarters have also. In May, executive chairman for Asia Pacific John McCormick announced in May that he would leave the bank after 17 years. Donald Workman, head of the asset protection scheme unit at the bank, has since assumed McCormick’s role.
And in June, global chief executive Stephen Hester announced his resignation after five years in his role, reportedly having to do with his differing of vision for the bank from the government. Ross McEwan, former chief executive officer for UK retail at the bank, was appointed Hester’s replacement on October 1.
And as remaining syndicate bankers in Asia see their colleagues leave the company, they have faced concern that RBS will lose its competitiveness.
“If everyone is leaving, it plays on you psychologically,” said a former RBS banker. “And then there are fears that you won’t be able to find other positions elsewhere [if the departures impact the bank’s reputation]…If there are attractive opportunities elsewhere, you can see why bankers would take them.”
However sources say that the bank is looking to announce at least one hire soon and point out it remains competitive, having worked on a variety of deals ranging from bank capital bonds, emerging market high yield paper and hybrids in recent months.
he departures, however, haven’t been limited to RBS’ debt syndicate desk.
On July 9, Vincent Wong, a managing director in debt capital markets (DCM) team, left the bank after seven years at RBS. Earlier this month, he resurfaced at ANZ as the bank’s head of Greater China DCM.
Around the time of Wong’s resignation, the bank also reportedly lost DCM analyst Benedict Lo to a rival bank. And from other areas, Jason Lam, a credit sales director in Hong Kong, also left the bank in July.