BlackRock Hires Ex-Credit Suisse Global Markets Head O'Hara

  • Timothy O’Hara to help guide expansion of the credit business
  • He worked at Swiss bank for 30 years before his September exit

BlackRock Inc. hired Timothy O’Hara, the former head of global markets at Credit Suisse Group AG, to build a bigger credit business in a move that signals an expansion in alternative assets at the world’s largest money-management firm.

O’Hara, who spent 30 years at Credit Suisse, mostly as an executive overseeing the underwriting and trading of credit products such as high-yield bonds and leveraged loans, will join BlackRock in April, according to an internal memo provided by the firm. He left the Swiss bank in September after less than a year running global markets, a casualty of a restructuring under Chief Executive Officer Tidjane Thiam.

Timothy O’Hara

Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg

BlackRock, which is based in New York, is seeking to profit from a pullback by banks that have been under growing regulatory pressure since the 2008 financial crisis. The market for global corporate bonds and loans totals more than $12.5 trillion, according to data from Bank of America Merrill Lynch and S&P. That total has about doubled since the crisis as almost a decade of ultra-low interest rates worldwide have spurred companies to issue record-setting amounts of new debt.

“The time is right to capture new opportunities,” BlackRock President Rob Kapito wrote in the memo. “Particularly in markets where banks and other traditional lenders aren’t meeting credit demand.”

O’Hara, 53, becomes co-head with Jim Keenan, who joined the firm in 2004. O’Hara will run the business side of the unit, while Keenan will be appointed chief investment officer of global credit, according to the memo. Both executives will report to Mark McCombe, who oversees BlackRock’s $117 billion alternatives business.

The move is part of BlackRock’s push to gather more fee revenue and meet demand from clients for assets that have less correlation to stocks and government bonds. The asset-management industry is trying to find ways to make money as capital flows out of actively run mutual funds and into cheaper exchange-traded offerings that track indexes. BlackRock saw its first decline last year in annual revenue since 2009 as performance fees fell by more than half, according to Bloomberg Intelligence.

O’Hara held various senior roles at Credit Suisse, including overseeing equities, running global credit products and helping head global securities and the fixed-income department in North America. He was replaced by Brian Chin, a veteran in Credit Suisse’s securitized products business in New York, after his unit racked up $1 billion in trading losses that forced Thiam to step up his overhaul a year ago.

“I am especially thankful to Tim for steering global markets through its recent accelerated restructuring program, returning the division to profitability in Q2 and ensuring that some of the positive momentum of the division in Q2 has continued over the summer months,” Thiam said in a statement at the time.

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