Merrill lost 12 senior bankers specialising in financial institutions to Deutsche Bank.

The departure of a team of bankers based in New York, London and Hong Kong who had spent their entire career at Merrill reinforces speculation of a clash between BofA’s retail banking culture and the Wall Street firm’s investment bankers.

Nelson Chai, a close ally of former Merrill Lynch chief executive John Thain, is stepping down from his position as president of Bank of America’s Asia/Pacific operations, leaving only one of Mr Thain’s high-profile hires in place following BofA’s acquisition of Merrill last month.</p> <p>Mr Chai, who had been Merrill’s chief financial officer until the BofA deal was announced in September, had not yet moved to Asia to take up his new responsibilities.

Mr Chai was regarded as a key lieutenant to Mr Thain, with whom he worked at the New York Stock Exchange before following him to Merrill. He is leaving less than two weeks after Mr Thain was ousted by BofA chief executive Ken Lewis.

BofA announced late on Tuesday that Kim Hong, BofA’s chief risk officer in the Asia/Pacific region, would take Mr Chai’s place.

Brian Moynihan, BofA’s head of global banking, securities and wealth management, said: “Kim brings to the table over 25 years of industry experience, intimate knowledge of the region’s markets and strong leadership qualities.”

Mr Chai’s departure leaves only one of the prominent hires made by Mr Thain during his 13-month tenure as Merrill’s chief executive: sales and trading chief Tom Montag.

Peter Kraus, who joined Merrill from Goldman Sachs in September, left in December to become chief executive of Alliance Bernstein. Andrea Orcel, Merrill’s most senior banker in Europe who was at the company before Mr Thain, is also believed to be considering his options.

via FT.com / Companies / Banks – BofA Asia head and Thain ally leaves.

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