Banks boost commodity sales and trading teams in Asia

Demand is rising among Asian corporate and institutional clients for commodity hedging and investments, and dealing desks in Singapore are bulking up.

Banks in Singapore are expanding commodities desks in response to client demand for products such as commodity derivatives. Credit Suisse, Nomura and Standard Chartered are among firms to have made recent hires.

Alan Koh has assumed the role of global head of energy sales at Standard Chartered in Singapore, having previously been Asia co-head of commodities at Morgan Stanley in the same city.

Other recent additions include Karan Chabria as head of oil products trading, formerly managing director of Singapore-listed Chemoil; and Wong Lee-Koon, who will be responsible for Northeast Asia strategic commodity sales. Wong was previously in commodity sales at Goldman Sachs at Singapore.

Meanwhile, Hew Min Choon moved to Standard Chartered in May as head of palm oil trading from Bermuda-based food conglomerate Bunge in Singapore, where he was a palm oil trader. And Ben Corbould joined late last year as head of Asia metals trading, having held the same post at Barclays Capital.

All are newly created positions designed to capitalise on the bullish view that many are forming on various commodities in Asia, says the bank, which anticipates demand for natural resources in Asia to keep growing.

Singapore is not the only focus for Standard Chartered. The bank says Asia is one of its most important commodity hubs, and it also plans to hire across Northeast and South Asia to beef up front-office operations.

“Economically and industrially, Asia is the fastest growing region in the world," says Arun Murthy, global head of commodities trading at Standard Chartered in Singapore. "Over the next 20 years, the demand for commodities will grow more quickly in Asia than in any other region of the world, and the fastest growth will be seen in Asia’s developing countries”.

Standard Chartered hopes to offer services across the commodity spectrum from energy and metals to agricultural products. Additionally, the bank plans to build out services linked to coal, iron ore, palm oil and rubber.

Meanwhile, Credit Suisse’s Kristian Thunes relocated from London to Singapore this week as a director in the commodities business, responsible for bulk trading.

“We are seeing increasing use of commodity derivatives by corporates and institutional clients in the region,” says Alexander Toone, Asia-Pacific head of commodities at Credit Suisse in Singapore. Bulk commodity markets like iron ore, coal and freight (dry, wet and container) are a particular focus, he adds.

Nomura, which took over the Lehman Brothers commodity business in 2007, hired Shaun Lim in June as head of oil and oil products trading. He reports to Sean Brecker, head of commodities trading for Asia ex-Japan and is based in Singapore. Lim was previously a trader at Barclays Capital.

Meanwhile, a host of iron-ore traders have begun operating over the past year in response to the growing number of small iron-ore producers entering the market for the first time and fundamental changes in the pricing mechanism. The commodity earlier this year moved to quarterly pricing linked to spot prices from its previous annual pricing system.

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