The bank has announced the appointment of Willy Liu from JP Morgan and Kenneth Koo from Goldman Sachs, following the departure of vice chairman Huan Guocang, who has become head of HSBC's China investment banking division.

Huan, hired from BZW in 1997, was initially regarded as Salomon's key mandate winner on the Mainland, where he was renowned for his close client contacts. He swiftly swept up through the ranks, becoming co-head of investment banking alongside Sanjiv Misra, Salomon's former head of equity capital markets. Last year, as Misra's star appeared to be a new ascendancy, Huan became vice chairman.

At HSBC, Huan will report to Nick Bryan-Brown and Peter Au-Yang, two of the bank's four recently appointed co-heads of investment banking. His arrival marks a major upgrading of the investment bank's China operations. Previously, HSBC did not have a dedicated China team and simply relied on a couple of specialists, who consequently found it difficult to fully leverage the bank's strong lending relationships on the Mainland.

Huan brings with him a ready-made team in the form of: Allen Chien, who becomes corporate finance director; senior manager Wenlei Li and; Leon Guo, manager.  HSBC's existing China specialists - veteran Herbert Hui and Beijing-based Simon Chen - will remain in place and bring the team up to a total of six. In addition, Helen Wong, HSBC's China specialist in DCM will work closely with Huan to enable the delivery of a more focused debt product.

At Salomon, Huan's main replacement will be Kenneth Koo, a former head of the China listing unit at the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, who helped craft the legislative framework for the first overseas listings by China's state-owned enterprises. Reporting to investment banking head Misra, Koo becomes chief operating officer of SSB's China business. Most recently, he worked in Goldman Sachs' high technology group.

Joining Salomon from JP Morgan, Liu reports to Scott Ferguson, the bank's hard working head of ECM and reputedly the proud owner of the most well-worn business class seat in Asia. Liu, who was head of the Asia Pacific execution and origination for energy and utility firms at JP Morgan, will be responsible for Greater China issuers.

"Salomon is pleased to have hired these talented individuals for our China business," Misra commented in a statement. "There's no question that our business in this area has lagged our improved performance in other Asian countries over the last three years. These two appointments are an important step in addressing that issue."