Who is Ed Peter?

There aren''t many highly successful bankers that earn seven digits and repeatedly refer to themselves as a ''bozo''. Ed Peter is one such man.

Peter is charisma personified and in spite of his modesty, there is little reason to suspect he is a bozo. And as the man fueling Deutsche's ambitions to build the best equities platform in Asia, he is not short of a challenge.

Having met Ed on a few occasions I can testify that you walk out of the room after half an hour with Mr Peter thinking very different things to when you went in.

Ed PeterWhich leads me to an aside. One of my favourite films is Casablanca and the financial journalist in me is always tickled by the moment when Rick stops a certain German gentleman from entering the 'cool' part of his infamous cafT. "You cannot stop me," says the gentleman. "I am from the Deutsche Bank."

Anyway, if you haven't seen the film, suffice to say the guy from Germany's favourite financial institution doesn't get in. Which brings me to my point: after meeting Peter, I couldn't help but transpose the charismatic Swiss into that very same scene. I envisaged a situation where five minutes later, a visibly shaken Humphrey Bogart would be welcoming Ed Peter in, having been convinced by Peter's energy that it would be a mistake not to.

There can be little doubt that Ed Peter is persuasive. In the seven months since he has arrived in Asia, he has persuaded 68 top equities professionals to join his team.

Given Deutsche Bank's previous abysmal reputation in the equities field - thanks to a massive ramp up and subsequent cull - that is no mean feat.

Top headhunter Ranjan Marwah says: "The uniqueness of Ed is he came in here wanting to build on a non-existent reputation. He wanted to create something, and when [my colleague] Darren Kemp came to me saying Ed wanted to do this and that, I said, 'Is he serious?' Then he methodically started knocking down nine-pins, one after the other. He has hired the best in their space."

The most recent big hire was strategist extraordinaire, David Scott, who turned down Goldman Sachs to join what Ed Peter refers to as his 'boutique'. Scott is a no-nonsense Scot, and his decision to join capped a year where Peter literally asset-stripped some of the best in the business from Merrill Lynch, ING Barings and a host of other firms.

One key hire and an early coup was veteran salesperson Jeffrey Chung who is now Peter's head of sales. "Deutsche had a terrible reputation out here," comments Chung, who had worked at Warburgs and then Merrill. "When I got the call from the headhunter, at first I wasn't even interested in meeting Ed."

The headhunter, Darren Kemp, had to use all of his credibility with Chung to persuade him to have 15 minutes with Peter. Soon those 15 minutes had turned into an hour. Peter laid down his vision for where he saw the firm going, gave his own ethical view of the business and how he intended to look after people.

Chung understood the vision, appreciated Peter's track record, and liked the energy and freshness which Ed Peter's 'boutique' promised.

Chung and I are sitting in one of the meeting rooms just off the trading floor, and it is worth noting that it typifies just that 'freshness and energy'. There are three rooms (named India, China and Thailand) and each of them is painted in bright colours with quirky antique furniture from the respective lands. Peter wanted the room to be more interesting than the usual stuffy bank meeting room, and three months ago gave each of the three senior secretaries a budget to go and do the interior design for the rooms. By empowering the secretaries he got three stunning rooms, and made them feel great too.

Furthermore, in order to do this Peter destroyed his own corner office, which is now the China room. Today he sits with his back to the window and its panoramic view of the harbour, and looks onto the trading floor. His desk is nondescript, so much so that it's impossible to tell he's the boss.

Why did he do this? "Culturally everyone was in a little box," he says. "We had offices all along this side of the room facing the harbour. And this meant the producers on the floor got non-existent light. I said, 'I am taking out the offices', which caused uproar. I wanted to give the people doing all the producing the light. My attitude was, make this a place where people work together, behave as a team; let's take down the walls."

His obsession with a boutique atmosphere is understandable. People work better in these environments. They are more motivated. Thus his first acts were symbolic ones. He introduced a European coffee machine, and for the morning meetings he introduced black leather sofas.

Chung says Peter motivates people in all sorts of small ways. For example, he might shout out, "The next person to get an order on stock X gets this" and hold up a bottle of Veuve Cliquot. He adds, "Ed is the most hands-on manager I have ever come across."

He also knew exactly what he wanted: "The philosophy is simple. Good people, a mentally strong environment and lastly, take care of people. Out of 68 people that we've hired, we paid four people more than they were receiving. We weren't out there with a chequebook. There were some people we walked away from. There was a guy in Taiwan who was all about money.

"I am looking for the Ravi Narain (two jobs in 16 years), the Warren Primhak (one job in 17 years), Anne See (one employer in 18 years), Ester Li (two employers in 11 years). That was what I was looking for."

He is also proud of the fact that he came from the trenches. He ran one of Warburg's most profitable operations, and then built Deutsche's hugely successful Swiss business. His background is in sales and thus when Chung was being interviewed the ex-Merrill man said: "I will only take this position if you agree to get on one of the phones if we are short staffed." And, of course, Peter readily agreed.

The 'weird, wacky, eclectic' group of people Peter has hired all have one thing in common according to the headhunter, Marwah: "All of them know that when it comes to standing in the gap for them and dealing with the institution, Ed Peter will be there for them."

Peter is quick to point out: "I'm not a saint. But I try to live by a code of ethics. I will fight as hard as I can for my people. I am a weird animal. I am not about money. I don't need to work. I've made a lot in the past. But this is the most interesting thing I can think to do."

He adds: "When I left UBS, they paid me for 11 months, but I couldn't start working for that amount of time. It was one of those navel gazing moments. The first three months were phenomenal. I'd get up late, and have time with the kids. The next three months were less interesting. And my wife said, 'If you don't start working soon, I am going to divorce you.'"

His wife is Australian and his move out to Asia was in part a way of getting her closer to home. He says he plans to be in Asia for "a very long time".

The team's success has started to show on the secondary side where Deutsche's market share is rising and even some of the most cynical fund managers are starting to show a grudging respect for some of the firm's trading ideas.

He says their goal is to look for undervalued companies: "When we find a company we like, we tend to buy 40%, 50%, 60% etc of the free float. We just keep on talking to the clients about it. Another broker will stumble upon it and start pushing it, and we'll get the majority of the commission bill."

He adds: "There are 17 people out here doing Asian equities. Half of them are not going to be around in three years, because they can t talk about things in a global context."

In some respects his benchmark is CLSA: "I want to be CLSA with real analysts. They've got a great boutique atmosphere, but they can't put things into a global context. But they really care about the secondary business and that's what I want to mimick. They also have hunger."

Last November, Peter also displayed that he had 'balls' when his team launched a highly successful $1.2 billion placement for DBS. Deutsche won the deal from under the noses of more fancied houses, largely because it had the best read on the market.

But it hasn't all been success, success, success. Peter is markedly more downbeat on the subject of GEM listing, Media Nation. This recent deal was lambasted by rival banks for poor execution that saw the deal go out with a price range so wide it didn't look like Deutsche itself knew what the price should be, and immediately traded down 12%.

Peter is philosophical about the deal. You can tell that he's learned a lot about Asia and local fund managers from this first IPO, and when he tells you he will trust his gut in the future, you imagine that a sequel to Media Nation is not on the cards.

"I'm human, and sure we'll screw up," he says in conclusion.

A keen motorcyclist - "although not in Hong Kong" - and a keen fisherman, he also part-owns a winery in Australia (called Kaisler) whose best wine got a 95 from Robert Parker.

What else can I tell you. Oh, there's a lifesize blue and white cow at the corner of his trading floor, but I'll leave you to ask him about that.