In the weeks following Wei Christianson's departure as CSFBs China head, there has been considerable speculation as to who the firm would hire to replace her. That speculation has ended with CSFB's announcement that it has hired Zhang Liping.

Zhang ranks as one of the most experienced China bankers in the region - although his more recent career has seen him veer from the investment banking mainstream to follow his private equity investments.

Zhang made his name as a star China originator in his seven years with Merrill Lynch in the mid-1990s when he helped to build its China franchise. During that time he worked on the IPO of Shanghai Petrochemical, the first dual New York and Hong Kong listing to originate from China. In 1994 he also played a key role in the launch of the People's Republic of China's debut sovereign bond issue.

When the red chip boom hit its fever pitch, Zhang left Merrill to run a China-backed financial group called Seapower Financial Services, which was later sold to KGI. He then became managing director of Pacific Concord Holdings and most recently was CEO of Imagi International.

Imagi - which works with Dreamworks - is an animation studio that makes 3D computer-generated TV series. Its latest series, 'Zentrix' was recently released in France, Germany, Britain and Japan.

Paul Calello, CSFB's regional chairman and CEO, says he interviewed a lot of China bankers for the role before a lawyer friend suggested looking at Zhang. Calello says he was impressed with Zhang's experience and his compatibility with other new China hires that CSFB is on the verge of announcing.

"Liping is keen to return to investment banking and has maintained many key relationships," says Calello.

The hiring of a new country head for China was a major priority for the firm. CSFB recently received a license to engage in the derivatives business in China. And as part of its commitment to China, Credit Suisse will hold a group executive board meeting in Shanghai towards the end of this month.