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A brief guide to becoming an MD in IBD at HSBC

These have not been the happiest of times in the investment banking division (IBD) of HSBC. Last month, Robin Philips, the HSBC 'survivor' who took over the leadership of the IBD division in the wake of the unpopular ex-Goldman banker Matthew Westerman in 2017, also left the bank. Philips' exit followed the publication of a tortuous memo in September claiming that Philips was a “bureaucrat”  who liked to have “meetings about meetings,” and that performance at HSBC's investment bank was, "really appalling”.

In the circumstances, a new round of managing director (MD) promotions looks like an opportunity to inject some verve into the investment bank, and to incentivize existing staff following a year in which HSBC paid some big guaranteed bonuses to hire-in 'dozens' of senior bankers around the world.

Financial News has a list of the newest MDs in HSBC's global investment banking division. They include the following (men): Diraj Ramchandani, MD UK investment banking; Kerem Akcay, MD consumer sector coverage; Andrea Chilese, MD financial institutions group (FIG) coverage; John Dower, MD corporate finance advisory; and Rafael De Paoli, an MD in banking coverage. All but Dower and De Paoli, who are based in the U.S. are based in London.

As well as being a man in the U.K., what then does it take to made MD at HSBC? The profiles of the men above suggest a few points of commonality.

1. Start your career somewhere else and join HSBC later on 

This is the key path to glory at HSBC. With the exception of Andrea Chilese, who joined as a graduate, most of the people on the list began their careers elsewhere and joined HSBC when they were already part way up the ladder. John Dower, for example, spent eight years at Morgan Stanley in New York and London before joining HSBC in 2013. Ramchandani joined in 2015 from UBS. Akcay joined in 2008 from Goldman (where he was a mere associate). 

2. Patience

Just because you've joined HSBC with prior experience (possibly at a tier one U.S. bank), don't presume you're going to get promoted overnight. Plenty of people on the list seem to have been made to wait. Dower, for example, spent nearly five and a half years as a director before getting the call. Meanwhile, HSBC hired a lot of people at MD level from elsewhere.

3. Flexibility 

The other noteworthy thing about HSBC's new MDs is that they've often done different things in their careers. HSBC has a reputation for rotating people across its global offices and divisions as part of its graduate training program and its MDs seem to embody this variety. Chilese, for example, started as a credit analyst before going into commercial banking and only then moving into client coverage in IBD. It took him 15 years to reach the top this way.

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor
  • An
    11 March 2019

    Financial News says that 34% of new MDs were female. As with Barclays, this is likely to be disproportionately high when looking at the total pool of suitable candidates and the number of promotions.

    So it seems that the single best way of maximising the chances of promotion to MD at HSBC's investment bank is to be female.

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