Royal Bank of Scotland

Fast-moving U.S. firm hires star banker for Asia

Jefferies & Co is taking on Sherry Liu from RBS as it bucks the trend by expanding despite the tougher competition and a shortage of deals

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 October, 2012, 12:36pm

Jefferies & Co has hired Sherry Liu, the former China chairman and chief executive of Britain's Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), to help expand its investment banking business in Asia.

Liu, who resigned in August from loss-making RBS, which was rescued by British taxpayers in the 2008 global financial crisis, will join the New York-based firm soon in a senior role in its investment banking business, three people in the industry familiar with the matter said.

They declined to be identified before an official announcement is made.

Earlier this year, RBS, controlled by the British government, sold its equity capital market-related investment banking business in the Asia-Pacific to Malaysia's CIMB.

Hundreds of jobs have been cut at several international investment banks in Hong Kong this year due partly to weak equity markets.

Bucking the trend, the high-profile hiring of Liu indicates Jefferies' ambition to expand its business outside the United States, in particular in Asia, despite tougher competition and a shortage of deals.

Late last year, the firm aggressively grabbed several well-known investment bankers, including Ren Wang from UBS. Wang is Asia president of Jefferies, based in Hong Kong.

Liu will also be based in the firm's Asia head office.

Jefferies is relatively new and has a low-profile in the city, compared with other big names, such as Bank of America-Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs, that have been doing business in China for decades.

In the US, Jefferies has been widely considered an emerging leader in the industry after the 2008 global financial crisis that started on Wall Street devastated a number of established investment banks like the legendary Lehman Brothers which collapsed in 2008.

"In America, this year Jefferies has done a pretty good job. In Asia, I think it needs to do a lot more to prove itself to its clients and the industry," one of the people said.

Jefferies was involved in some high-profile initial public offerings in the US this year, for example, the famed British soccer club Manchester United. In Asia, meanwhile, Jefferies has been busy building up its IPO pipeline.

Liu, a veteran China-focused investment banker well known in the financial community in Hong Kong and the mainland, worked for RBS for about 16 months after she quit JP Morgan as vice-chairman for its China business.

RBS confirmed Liu's resignation and said Alex Chu, head of international banking for North Asia, will take over her post.

Jefferies and Liu were unavailable for comment.

Liu is still on "gardening leave", which is given to senior bankers who are involved in client relationships or with access to sensitive or competitive information in the company, the people said.

People who are on gardening leave are not allowed to work for a rival company for a pre-determined period. Liu's gardening leave will end in coming weeks, one person said.