After ABN AMRO's latest reorganization, there were many who wondered what role the exuberant James Pearson might carve for himself. Pearson had rejoined ABN after a several years with Morgan Stanley, and was head of corporate finance in the region.
However, in spite of the fact that the Asian franchise saw successes with some key M&A advisory mandates for SABMiller and San Miguel, the corporate finance business was eliminated in a recent, sweeping reorganization that ABN instigated from Amsterdam.
At the beginning of May, Pearson's corporate finance group was folded into a new division that combines equity capital markets and M&A execution. It is headed in Asia by former head of ECM, Matthew Kirkby. Pearson's role was eliminated as a result, and there was much speculation as to what his future role would be. Indeed outside Asia, the reorganization led to the departures of the global head of corporate finance, Steven Gregg and the global head of M&A, Peter Dodd.
However, Pearson appears to have evaded Amsterdam's latest mushroom cloud and got himself promoted to a much more exciting role. Pearson has been elevated to the top job running ABN's wholesale banking activities in China.
The new job will see him relocating from Hong Kong to Shanghai and being responsible for ABN's global markets, investment banking, commercial banking and derivatives businesses in China. In Shanghai, he will retain a clear focus on what ABN terms 'global clients' which is basically its investment banking business.
ABN has big ambitions for China and will want Pearson to help broaden the client base. In many ways Amsterdam sees success in China as equaling success in Asia and Pearson has therefore secured one of the most coveted country head roles in the entire ABN network. Observers say that much of the dynamism that Pearson brought to building the corporate finance business can be replicated in China as ABN seeks to add a sense of urgency to its China strategy.
The job itself will keep Pearson busy, highly challenged and give him prominence with the bank's board. The only downside for the English banker is that he will have to leave Hong Kong's hills behind. Pearson is a fitness fanatic and spends most weekends running on Hong Kong's punishing rural trails, such as Lantau Sunset Peak. Friends note he will find it hard to replicate this exercise in Shanghai - unless running up and down the Grand Hyatt's stairwell is any compensation.
He is due to relocate to Shanghai in the coming weeks.