Newly Hired Debt Origination Head Signals Ongoing U.S. Build-Up By Nomura

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Fixed-income bankers, here's a new name for your card file: Jim Merli, Nomura's newly named head of debt origination and debt syndicate for the Americas. His hiring is the latest step in the Japanese firm's push to establish a full-scale investment bank in the U.S. If you aim to join that build-up, a Lehman Brothers pedigree can't hurt.

Merli was hired from Barclays Capital where he headed U.S. primary market syndication for fixed income. Before that he spent 25 years at Lehman, whose U.S. operations Barclays acquired in 2008. The Nomura executives he reports to, fixed-income co-heads Charles Spero and Jeff Michaels and Americas investment banking chief Glenn Schiffman, are Lehman alumni as well.

U.S. fixed-income issuance is holding its own this year and shows signs of rebounding from a second-quarter falloff sparked by Europe's sovereign debt crisis. Investment-grade bond sales total $272 billion for the year to date, including a robust $19 billion sold last week, according to Dealogic figures cited by Financial News. High-yield issuance, at $115 billion, already exceeds the total for all of last year. Much of this year's activity consists of refinancing older, higher-rate debt.

Merli told Financial News he'll focus on meeting clients to explain Nomura's U.S. build-up over the past 12 monhts, encompassing sales, trading and research. It's looking to seize market share now that "there are three or four fewer competitors" than before the crisis, he says.

Schiffman, who transferred to his current role early this year after heading Nomura's investment banking for Asia ex-Japan, told Bloomberg News in June that the firm planned to boost its U.S. banking team from 65 bankers to about 100 by year-end. Nomura turned its attention to bulking up in the U.S. since acquiring Lehman's European and Asian operations in 2008.