Southeast Asia IBD head: “Why I've stayed at J.P. Morgan for 24 years”

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Rohit Chatterji

In an industry infamous for hiring and firing, Rohit Chatterji stands out for staying put at one investment bank. He has been with J.P. Morgan since 1993 – when he joined its securities joint venture with ICICI in India – and is now head of investment banking for South and Southeast Asia, based in Singapore.

“Back in the mid-90s, J.P. Morgan was one of the only international banks in India, a pioneer. Its JV was the only firm I applied to,” says Chatterji.

Chatterji credits his longevity at the bank to the “diversity” of his career. He started out covering Indian telecoms, media and technology, before moving to Singapore in 1997 to focus on financial institutions. The following year he became a power and utilities banker in Hong Kong.

In total, Chatterji has moved between India, Singapore and Hong Kong eight times while at J.P. Morgan. “While I’ve had chances to go to New York and London, the roles on offer in Asia have given me the best challenges.”

His positions have also ranged across different products – Chatterji has been head of Southeast Asia M&A and head of Asian debt capital markets, for example.

“I’ve moved to a new role every three years, so I’ve never got bored or run out of opportunities. When your organisation enables this, why change firms?” he says.

“Working on different products, industries and countries also means I can now offer broader perspectives to clients and colleagues. It’s also helped that I haven’t experienced politics here – you get promoted on merit.”

J.P. Morgan – which finished first among respondents in Asia in the eFinancialCareers Ideal Employer rankings – does not reveal headcount figures or hiring targets for its investment bank in Singapore. But, as in other years, most of the new recruits to Chatterji’s IB team in 2017 will be at graduate level.

“And the majority of graduates we hire in Singapore each year to cover Southeast Asia have been former interns with us,” says Chatterji.

“Graduates must have good numeracy skills and be able to quickly grasp new concepts and understand our products,” he adds. “We’re also looking for people with the potential to develop strong client relationships – people we can eventually see having one-on-one meetings with our clients at senior levels.”

“If you want to succeed as a junior team member, it’s essential that you produce very high quality, accurate and comprehensive work for your seniors – nothing hurts you more as a banker than errors in your work,” advises Chatterji.

Because J.P. Morgan’s IBD graduate intake in Singapore is smaller than in markets like New York, London and Hong Kong, new recruits “interact closely and regularly” with senior bankers. “And they integrate quickly into our company culture.”

Chatterji says he’s “never lost any of my direct reports to another large bank in all my 20-plus years at J.P. Morgan”.

“Bankers only leave if the're made to operate below their capability, are chronically underpaid, or don’t get on with their boss. We look after our people and pay competitively across market cycles,” says Chatterji.

Retention rates remain “strong” within J.P. Morgan’s Singapore IB team, says Chatterji. “This is partly because we’re just as committed to Asia as we are to the US and Europe, while some other firms are worrying about their business models here.”

“Overall, competition in Southeast Asian investment banking is getting tough. At the same time, there’s a shake-up happening – some banks are no longer around in SEA and clients are gravitating to firms that are most committed to the region,” adds Chatterji.

In 2016, J.P. Morgan had a comparatively quiet beginning of the year in Southeast Asia IBD, but enjoyed a “very busy final three months”, which enabled it to beat its full-year revenue forecast.

Chatterji does not single out any particular coverage area as providing a potential boon for Singapore IBD jobs over the long term.

“There are always themes in the IBD market in Southeast Asia – TMT might be hot one year, real estate the next, or FIG the year after.”

View the complete 2017 Ideal Employer Global Rankings.

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