Standard Chartered Hires Lehman Veteran

Standard Chartered Bank has hired Christian Wait, a 23-year Lehman Brothers veteran, as its new global head of capital markets

Standard Chartered Bank has hired Christian Wait as its new global head of capital markets within the financial markets division. Wait is a 23-year Lehman Brothers veteran, his most recent position being that of global head of credit sales based in New York.

This will become useful at Standard Chartered, where capital markets is primarily a debt-focused business comprising fixed-income, asset securitisation ad loan syndications. Wait will be based in Singapore, the operational centre for the UK-headquartered bank's wholesale banking business, of which the financial markets division is a part. His appointment completes the build-up of the bank's financial markets management team which has seen two other senior hires in just over a month.

In his new job, Wait will be responsible for all aspects of Standard Chartered's capital markets business and for continuing the expansion and deepening of coverage and products in newer markets across Asia, Africa and the Middle East, the bank said in a release. The bank is already among the market leaders within loan syndications, local currency bonds and asset-backed securities in the markets where it is active.

Wait will also join Standard Chartered's financial markets management committee. He takes over from Deepak Kohli, global head of debt capital markets, and Philip Cracknell, global head of syndications, who have served as interim co-heads of the capital markets business while the hiring process has been going on. He will report directly to Lenny Feder, who is the group head of financial markets.

Wait is highly qualified for the position, as noted by Standard Chartered in the release, having held several senior global positions in New York and London during his time at Lehman, including head of debt capital markets for Europe and Asia; global head of collateralised debt obligations and structured credit sales; global co-head of syndicate; and global head of money markets.

"[Wait] has an enormous range of experience on both the capital markets and distribution side and is exactly the right person to lead our build-out of the business and bring a new level of product capability to our core client base," Feder said in a written comment. His appointment, Feder added, will enable Standard Chartered to fully leverage its capital markets offering with clients.

Wait joins Standard Chartered only a month after the bank said it had hired Vinod Aachi from Deutsche Bank to take on a newly created position as global head of structuring, and had brought in Vincent Van Pelt from Bear Stearns in London as global head of equity derivatives and commodities with responsibility for trading, risk and product activities, as well as sales. Like Wait, Aachi and van Pelt are based in Singapore and are part of the financial markets management committee. They too report to Feder.

Wait's departure from Lehman Brothers comes after the 158-year-old firm filed the largest bankruptcy case in US history last month. Its North American investment banking and capital markets business was subsequently bought by Barclays Capital for $1.75 billion. It is not known what efforts Barclays have made to retain former Lehman staff, although its offer is likely to have been less generous than that of Nomura which bought part of Lehman's businesses in Asia and Europe and has offered all employees in Asia a flat bonus versus 2008. Recognising how important the staff is for the newly acquired business to become the desired springboard for its own investment banking expansion into Asia, Nomura has, according to sources, also offered a flat bonus for the top-500 employees for 2009.

When Barclays announced the acquisition on September 17, it said it "believes the Lehman Brothers businesses have an excellent team of people whose skills, capabilities and culture provide a good fit with Barclays and its clients" and added that it looked forward to welcoming them to its team and to working together to deliver the combination's full potential. It has subsequently said that more than 10,000 Lehman employees have been offered jobs in the business now owned by Barclays.

The fact that Wait, after a long career based in the US and Europe, is choosing to move to Asia and to join a bank with a large focus on emerging markets—Standard Chartered derives more than 90% of its operating income from Asia, Africa and the Middle East—is interesting since it gives an indication of where he expects capital markets activity to concentrate in the future. He is by no means the first banker to recognise this and 2008 has seen a stream of bankers move to Asia from Europe and the US. That migration is expected to continue as the losses suffered from subprime related assets is forcing banks in those regions to cut costs, resulting in mass layoffs as well as the transfer of key staff to Asia.

Standard Chartered is listed in both London and Hong Kong and ranks among the top-25 companies in the FTSE-100 index in terms of market capitalisation. Over the past five years, its income and profits have more than doubled as a result of organic growth supplemented by acquisitions.