Maybank’s Singapore-based Investment Banking Leader on Enhancing & Diversifying a Compelling Offering
Maybank is Southeast Asia’s fourth largest bank by assets and is riding a wave of growth, diversification and expansion. For the year ended 31 December 2021, the group produced pre-tax profits of RM10.9 billion, almost 26% higher than in 2020. In the same period, Maybank Singapore registered a remarkable 77.2% increase in pre-tax profits, driven by across-the-board expansion. The business has broadened its horizons significantly in recent years to appeal to an ever-wider array of single- and multi-family offices, and other independent or external asset managers. With a powerful investment banking reach in Southeast Asia, a robust research and capital markets offering, a proven execution platform, and the financial power of the region’s fourth-largest bank behind it, they are offering the wealth management community a compelling proposition. Aditya Laroia was promoted to Chief Executive Officer of the Maybank Investment Banking Group in Singapore in mid-2021. Hubbis ‘met’ with him in late March to survey the progress and plans for the foreseeable future.
Laroia opens the discussion by enthusing about the rising activity levels in brokerage, capital market and investment banking. “Activity levels and ongoing internationalisation of deals and investment in this region are highly encouraging,” he reports. “We are coming off two very good years and aiming to maintain that momentum.”
He explains they are diversifying, adding new businesses that will complement the powerful regional presence and what he describes as their dominance in ASEAN equities. “We have added businesses like prime brokerage and financing, covering clients beyond the major long-only asset management accounts, and now reaching out to a broader set of clients including hedge funds, family offices and other players,” he reports.
“As perhaps ASEAN’s largest investment banking operation, we are well placed to work with many of the international firms and investors looking to expand in the region, and ideally suited as partners for the wealth management community.”
A seismic shift
Laroia offers a short history of the Maybank’s investment banking expansion, which he says became turbocharged around a decade ago when the bank bought Kim Eng Securities, the Singapore brokerage that had by then established itself as a regional equity and investment banking powerhouse.
“The traditional value businesses have been investment banking, capital raising, corporate finance advisory, M&A, ECM, DCM and the equities research and equity sales & trading business focused on typical asset managers investing in Asia,” he explains. “Over the past decade, Maybank has leveraged the infrastructure and success of Kim Eng historically to create a powerful, broad-based platform.”
Keen focus on wealth management players
He explains that the mandate has in more recent times been widening even further to encompass a more diverse range of wealth management firms, including IAMs (Independent Asset Managers), EAMs (External Asset Managers), as well as family offices.
“We are not simply a digital execution platform for these clients,” he says, “as we have a combined total force of two-thousand plus people between the bank and the investment bank in Singapore alone. We can also bring more resources and different areas of expertise together for them,” Laroia reports. “Of course, this is complemented by our digital technological interface, but very much alongside the human skills that we place at the disposal of our clients.”
A More holistic offering
He adds that as they are part of Malaysia's largest bank, they also offer great strengths and credibility as a counterparty and offer a wide array of funding options for clients.
“For a large successful family office, we are able to cover the entire value chain, from funding bank account, investments, research, capital raising, financing, asset management, custody and so forth,” he reports. “In short, we can cover clients much more holistically from the total bank perspective.”
He adds that they have also boosted their coverage of the private equity and venture capital segment in recent times, bringing an interesting array of deals to clients such as the EAMs, multifamily and single-family offices. “We are also very active right now in the Singapore SPAC listing activity, so we are continually broadening our reach and range,” he reports.
Greater efficiencies, lower costs for access
He explains that their business has become far more accessible to many more people, aligned to lower cost of entry, improved efficiency, more client-centricity and better value, creating a virtuous circle of activity.
He also says his business and that of the private bank has shifted from being very transactional in nature to taking what he called a far more holistic view of clients and their families, with a much longer-term vision of solutions and planning.
And there are today far more options available for different types of clients, so those who prefer more of the typical stockbroker and high service approach will continue to be well served, and those perhaps younger or more digital clients can be served digitally largely, or in a hybrid model alongside more personal involvement.
He also points to the bank’s embrace of ESG and sustainability. “We are expanding our sustainability efforts internally and externally,” he reports, “building our expertise, our knowledge, our services and learning as clients work with us on these areas.”
His first mission is to continue to focus intently on making sure that they deliver what clients want. “From a client coverage perspective, we have a lot of people covering clients that are quite vested in their clients, and we must make sure we deliver the right products and service them more holistically, and also offer full digital access wherever they wish,” he explains.
The second priority from an institutional perspective, is to drive the financing and Prime services business forward to propel further growth. “We aim to double this in the next two years, serving a whole new segment of family offices, hedge funds, and asset managers, EAMs, IAMs,” he explains.
The third mission is to expand the ‘new economy’ opportunities. “We've added headcount in research to be able to start covering them, so we can be better at idea generation and offer better visibility for our clients around what's happening in the region with new digital and internet driven businesses,” he reports. “We will therefore be much more active in terms of fundraising from very early stage to later stage operators when they want to list. We will also continue to support Singapore’s ambitions of helping make this hub even more diverse and dynamic.”
He closes the discussion with a note of optimism and also regret. “It is a shame that the global improvement in the outlook around the pandemic and the gradual re-opening of travel, meetings, events and so forth should at the same time be countered by the tragic news around the Ukraine. While many sectors of business are doing well, ours included, we all need a more stable and better world to enjoy around us. People need optimism and hope for the future. Let’s all hope for less uncertain and happier times ahead.”
Aditya Laroia comes originally from New Delhi in India and has over 24 years of experience in financial markets earned in New York, London, Copenhagen, and now Singapore.
He joined Maybank Kim Eng Group in May 2020 as Regional Head, Prime Brokerage and Head, Investment Management, Singapore, with the mandate to grow the capital markets businesses in Singapore and develop its global Prime businesses. On the strength of his achievements, he became CEO of the Investment Banking business in May 2021.
Prior to joining Maybank in 2020, Laroia had been Asia Pacific Head of Sales at Saxo Group in Singapore for six years; there he was responsible for client business for the region. He had first joined Saxo in Denmark in 2012.
Before Saxo, he also held leadership roles at Nomura for four years until 2012 years and at Lehman Brothers for a decade, having joined the now infamous US firm in July 1998, soon after earning his degree in Economics from the University of California, Berkeley.
Lehman was an innovative and dynamic firm before its final collapse, and Laroia recalls his decade plus of years there with some fondness. “I worked in some really interesting areas, starting off in asset-backed securities on the home loan and mortgage desk, then moving to a new specialised area called Strategic Investments, which focused on all developments and investments in new technologies for the equities business and those that would be the bedrock of modern trading businesses,” he reports. “I learned a lot which after the global financial crisis and the collapse of Lehman would stand me in good stead for my future career.”
He was in London as an executive director of their equities execution business when Lehman went bankrupt. As Lehman went under, he leveraged the skills and experience he had gained there to become Head of Wholesale Equities business for EMEA at Nomura, which had bought some of the Lehman businesses, until he went to Saxo in Denmark for two years in 2012, who was one of the wholesale clients.
“I do not regret my time at Lehman at all,” he says. “I learned an incredible amount, and went through some terrible and amazing times there, including 9/11 and then the 2008 collapse. A lot of those events were rare, once in a lifetime type experiences that transform you as a person. I actually have great memories of those years and the aftermath, then rebuilding some of those business within Lehman and Nomura.”
Laroia is married with one son aged three and a new-born baby. His wife is an artist, and Laroia has an artistic leaning, having performed as an Indian cultural dancer while at Berkeley, and he later ran a small entertainment PR company in New York, which worked with promoting restaurants, nightclubs and fashion shows. “I still enjoy an active social life at night around nice restaurants with family, clients and friends,” he reports, “at least when the pandemic restrictions are not so intensive. There is a wonderful Japanese named Tatsuya right near where we live, which is well worth a visit.”
In the past, he used to play a lot of squash, even representing Delhi at the state level. He played a lot of golf as he grew up, learning the game with his father, who was in the Indian army. In Singapore, he enjoys plenty of tennis, which suits his lifestyle and time availability better these days.
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