September 1, 2009 / 9:27 AM / 9 years ago

Bank of America adds 5 staff to Asia commods team

SINGAPORE, Sept 1 (Reuters) - Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAC.N) said on Tuesday it has added five senior staff to its Asia Pacific Commodities team, in yet another sign that the sector is on the road to recovery after a year-long downturn.

The bank said it had appointed Peter Beaumont as managing director and head of Metals and Mining Sales and Origination for Asia Pacific, based in Sydney.

Previously, Beaumont spent four years at ABN AMRO Australia as executive director of Structured Finance, and 10 years as global head of Metals Sales and Trading at UBS in London, New York, and Sydney.

Paul Wright joins as director and head of Commodities Oil and Gas Origination, Asia Pacific, based in Singapore, from Chevron (CVX.N) where he worked for more than 13 years.

The moves come amid widespread anecdotal evidence that hiring is on the upswing after a period of uncertainty that had frozen companies’ expansion plans in the wake of the recession.

Sources also told Reuters in August that at least nine senior oil and commodities trading executives have left high-profile posts or jumped to other firms in the past two months, while at least three more companies are hunting for talent. [ID:nSP377504] Analysts say the banking sector is resurgent, like the 1990s boom that followed the commercial real estate crash, and up to end-August BOA shares have jumped 600 percent since March 6.

Others argue that the short-term outlook remains hazy, as investors face a weak economy and the prospect of rising credit losses.

On Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported that BOA is offering to repay part of the U.S. government bailout money, starting with the $20 billion it received in January to help with the takeover of Merrill Lynch & Co.

Others moving to BOA include Hong Kong-based John Bao Vu, who will be its new director and head of Complex Options Trading in Asia Pacific, while Prakash Shah will assume the role of director and head of India Commodity Solutions, based in Mumbai.

Vu joins from Deutsche Bank where he was a director in the Commodities team in Hong Kong, while Shah had worked in RBS-Sempra as part of the Commodity Sales and Trading group in Mumbai.

Celina Zhang has been named director of Commodity Solutions in Greater China, based in Singapore. Before this, she was Goldman Sachs Singapore’s Executive Director of Commodity Marketing focused on Energy Corporate Clients across Greater China.

The bank said Beaumont and Wright will join the company in September, while Shah and Zhang recently started in their new roles. Vu’s starting date will be announced shortly.

The developments in Asia have mirrored that in the United States, where the best traders are being wooed again by banks and hedge funds with top dollars, after hundreds of commodity traders lost their jobs last year as the slump took its toll.

With the prospect of stricter regulatory limits on U.S. futures trading, the unfettered markets of Asia, plus the proximity to China, looks promising for energy and commodities growth, putting a premium on those with regional expertise. (Reporting by Jennifer Tan; Editing by Ramthan Hussain)

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