Lehman prime brokers make Lazarus-like comeback

Under the Nomura brand, many of the former Lehman Brothers’ Asian prime broking team are back in business.

‘Asia’s only home-grown prime broker’ is the slogan being attached to the new global prime broking franchise of Nomura Asia Holding. With the launch of its North American cash prime broking service, all the pieces of that jigsaw are now complete and it is ready to roll.

The firm's Asian prime broking arm was actually completed in the late spring, but couldn’t lay claim to a successful full launch until this last piece was in place, as global hedge funds had to tick the box of it being a globally available service

Its initial targets are global funds looking for diversification of prime brokers as well as funds with a clear Japan strategy, where it perceives it has an advantage with the depth of its stock-borrowing capability.

“We plan to be the dominant prime broker in Japanese strategies, and we plan to move fast to capture that business,” says Tim Wannenmacher, global head of Nomura prime broking.

Wannenmacher used to be Lehman’s Asian head of prime broking and remains based in Hong Kong. Along with him are other ex-Lehman veterans, including: Mia Bourgeois, who is heading Asia-Pacific sales; Richard Norris, running sales and origination in Singapore; Chris Antonelli, head of Japan prime broking who runs the financing business; and Aditi Velakacharla, running capital introductions for the region. The global head of prime broking technology is Mohid Kapoor, who joined Nomura from Morgan Stanley.

Former Lehman clients are among those funds that have joined the Nomura prime brokerage platform, but the service is improved from the one they used to use, says Wannenmacher.

“What happened in 2008 was tragic for the whole market and we cannot deny that past,” he notes. “We have moved forward and tried to help our clients navigate the process of resolution. Our new platform has the latest technology and built-in safety measures for prime brokerage clients, in case there is another major market event in the future. For example, they can select a custody model depending on financing needs, rather than there being just one solution.”

Lehman’s Asian staff migrated to Nomura in 2008 in Jesse Bhattal’s “everyone including the tea lady” trade. Still in residence there are Bhattal himself, his aide-de-camp Jim “Jimmy the Q” Quismorio, and Brian O’Connor, who has rejoined the firm to do special situations.

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