Lehman creates SWF role

In a bid to boost its coverage of sovereign wealth funds at a time when they are becoming ever more sought-after as investment banking clients, Lehman Brothers has created a new role of global head of sovereign wealth funds.

Makram Azar, who has been running Lehman’s media, consumer and retail investment banking businesses in Europe and the Middle East, is taking the role. He will also take the title of chairman of media investment banking for Europe and the Middle East.

Reflecting the cross-divisional nature of the sovereign wealth fund job, Azar will have three reporting lines: to Jeremy Isaacs, CEO for Europe, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific; to global head of senior relationship management Steve Lessing; and to Asia-Pacific CEO Jasjit Bhattal.

“Sovereign wealth funds have gained more visibility recently as a huge client base, although they have been active for a long time in less visible areas,” said Azar.

“They are increasingly touching every part of the firm, and we need to organise ourselves accordingly. We decided that it would make sense for one person to be responsible for co-ordinating that effort and to deliver the whole firm to these important institutions,” he said.

In his new role, Azar will move from London to Dubai, a base that he argues is logical for the job as the time zone sits conveniently within the geographical scope of the industry – which stretches from Norway to South Korea.

Over time, Azar will build a team to work with him, with likely candidates being some of the staff that have until now been working in financial sponsor coverage – an area that is deathly quiet at most firms.

Lehman is reacting to trends in other areas too. In response to what it describes as extraordinary opportunities “to offer differentiated advisory services to its clients” that have been created by current market conditions, it has created global management roles for financial institutions M&A.

The business will be jointly led by Richard Bonaventura and Bradley Whitman. Both are well established at the firm. Whitman originally joined in 1986, and rejoined in 1994 after a stint practising M&A law. He was most recently US co-head of the communications industry group.

For Bonaventura, the new job is closer to home, as he was previously head of US financial institutions M&A. Like Whitman, he has M&A law experience, having practised ahead of joining Lehman in 1999.

At the bank he has led deals such as the US$9bn merger of Travelers with St Paul Companies and Lincoln National’s US$8bn acquisition of Jefferson Pilot.