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Former SMBC market boss sets up independent fund

[TOKYO] A former top executive at Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp (SMBC) with a reputation as a savvy market player has started an independent global macro fund - a rare move for Japanese bankers, who typically settle on cushy retirement positions provided by their employers.

Seiichiro Takahashi, SMBC's former deputy president, has set up Hawksbridge Capital Co Ltd in Tokyo. The company will start operations from Dec 10 and it aims to build up assets under management to around 100 billion yen (S$1.2 billion) within one or two years, a source with direct knowledge of the matter said.

SMBC is a core banking unit of Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group, Japan's third-largest lender by assets.

Takahashi is a veteran SMBC hand, having joined Sumitomo Bank in 1979 and spending most of his career in dealing rooms, where he earned a reputation as a savvy market player.

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Nicknamed as "Asia's tiger," he is credited with heading currency and derivatives trading desks that generated profits when the bank was hit by massive bad loan costs in early 2000s.

He was the head of the bank's market division when the collapse of Lehman Brothers triggered the global financial crisis in 2008. Those who knew Takahashi then said he saw signs of market change well ahead of the crisis and moved to offload subprime-related assets from the portfolio, saving the bank from big losses that had crippled rivals.

Takahashi is also known as a friend of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. He stepped down as SMBC's deputy president last year.

His new fund management company focuses on "global macro" strategy, investing in traditional assets such as stocks, bonds, currencies and commodities, said the source, who declined to be identified. It has a team of five traders and one research analyst, the person said.

Hawksbridge officials were not immediately available for comments.