Page last updated at 16:19 GMT, Tuesday, 20 May 2008 17:19 UK

Top bankers 'leaving US for Asia'

Trader contemplates share price movements on the Hang Seng index
Hong Kong is attracting more and more senior banking figures

The number of high-flying investment bankers moving from the US to Asia is set to increase, experts have said, as a result of the credit crunch.

A senior Credit Suisse executive is the latest in a string of "dealmakers" to relocate from New York to Hong Kong.

Big takeover deals are scarce in the US and Europe as the credit squeeze has made it hard for firms to source funds.

But corporate activity has remained buoyant in Asia, driven by Chinese firms and foreign private equity.

'Follow the money'

According to Dealogic, which supplies IT solutions to the banking industry, the number of acquisitions by private equity in Asia - excluding Japan - rose 15% in the first quarter of the year while worldwide deals fell.

Vikram Gandhi, head of Credit Suisse's Global Financial Institutions Group, is moving to Hong Kong to personally oversee the firm's corporate finance business in the region.

Credit Suisse is a leading corporate adviser on merger and acquisitions in the region and is involved in deals, according to Dealogic, worth $12.5bn this year.

Once you get critical mass in a location, it begins to snowball and that is what is happening in Asia
Professor Scott Moeller, Cass Business School

Mr Gandhi, who will continue to run the group's Americas business, will follow in the footsteps of executives from JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs and Blackstone Group who have also migrated to Asia in recent months.

"Investment bankers follow the money," said Scott Moeller, a Professor at the Cass Business School and former executive with Deutsche Bank and Morgan Stanley.

"With sovereign wealth funds having a lot of money, with Asia having escaped the worst of the credit crunch and with the crunch having hit the US and Europe the hardest, it is not surprising at all.

"Once you get critical mass in a location, it begins to snowball and that is what is happening in Asia."

Market competition

As investment banking profits are squeezed in US and Europe by the credit crunch, institutions are turning to Asia where many Chinese and Hong Kong firms are flush with cash, having raised capital by listing shares in recent times.

The dynamism of the Chinese economy and the attractiveness of Hong Kong as a financial centre meant this management trend was likely to continue even when financial markets returned to normality in the US and Europe, Professor Moeller added.

But indecision in China about how Hong Kong and Shanghai should compete as financial hubs was likely to ensure the former did not overtook London or New York, he said.

"I would be more worried if I was in a third tier financial centre like Paris or Frankfurt than in London or New York," he said.

"I don't think London or New York will be losing their crowns as leading financial centres any time soon."

The most recent Global Financial Services Centre Index ranked Hong Kong in third place behind London and New York.




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