JPMorgan's Southeast Asia operations picked up its second big scalp in the past month, luring Eugene Lai to the investment bank's Malaysia offices. Following the appointment of Gita Wirjawan as SCO and head of investment banking in Indonesia in August, the bank has announced that Lai will come on board as senior country officer for Malaysia and head of investment banking for Malaysia.

The hiring correlates with JPMorgan's platform of expanding the Malaysia business and leveraging opportunities resulting from the Malaysian governments policy of continued reform and privatisation. Under Lai's jurisdiction, areas of product expansion will include Malaysian DCM, M&A and treasury services, among other things.

In terms of reporting, Lai will split his accountability between his two titles. As JPM's senior country officer for Malaysia, he will report to Ralph Parks, JPMorgan's Chairman for Asia Pacific. While as head of investment banking for Malaysia, Lai will answer to Philip Lee, chief executive officer for JPMorgan Southeast Asia Limited and head of investment banking for Southeast Asia.

For the past 18 months, Lee has occupied the position of senior country officer and in May was rewarded by JPMorgan with his present title. Aside from co-reporting to Lee, Lai will also work closely with him to recognize and develop cross-border business opportunities for the investment bank's key strategic region of Southeast Asia.

JPMorgan bring the highly qualified Lai back to his native Malaysia from the managing director and CEO position at The Ascott Group, a Singapore-based multinational serviced residence corporation within the CapitaLand family. During this time, he was also a director of Raffles Holdings Limited.

Before leading The Ascott Group, Lai covered Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand for two years as a managing director and partner of The Carlyle Group. Lai's lengthy CV also includes a stretch at Citigroup, where from 1997 to 2001 he held an array of senior positions that included the title of managing director in the Asia-Pacific investment banking division and head of corporate finance for Southeast Asia.

He has also toned his financial experience at Schroders, where he was head of corporate finance, Southeast Asia; deputy group CEO, Singapore. During his Schroders' tenure, Lai was one of four members of its Asia-Pacific investment banking executive committee that looked after the firm's investment banking business in Asia.

Before moving into the financial services sector, Lai spent ten years as an attorney and is qualified to practice in New York, England, Singapore and Malaysia. His legal career includes time practicing with Coudert Brothers in its New York and Singapore offices, and as a partner at David Chong & Company, a Singapore and Malaysia-based firm.

"I am very pleased to be coming back to Malaysia in this role. Malaysia has a vibrant economy and JPMorgan is committed to partnering with Malaysia's leaders in achieving their strategic objectives and attracting even more global investors," comments Lai on his return to the banking sector.

Lai's optimism for growth in Malaysia was also echoed JPMorgan's regional chairman. "Drawing on this rich background and the firm's broad capabilities, Eugene will further develop our Malaysian business, advising corporations and government entities on a broad range of financing and strategic issues," states Parks.