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ABN Trader Follows Sales Pros Out the Door
Asset Backed Alert, Harrison Scott Publications Inc. (June 1, 2007)

Asset-backed trading chief Geoffrey Chang quit ABN Amro's New York office this week, not long after the Dutch bank axed 10 sales professionals who handled securitized products.

Though unexpected, Chang's sudden departure from the bank's U.S. trading desk was understandable even to his bosses. It's possible he feared his role would be diminished under Barclays Capital or a group led by Royal Bank of Scotland, which are vying to take over Amsterdam-based ABN Amro. Barclays and Royal Bank subsidiary RBS Greenwich Capital already operate well-established trading desks in the U.S. securitization arena.

Meanwhile, ABN officials assert Chang's exit had nothing to do with the 10 sales staffers in New York who were given their walking papers early last week. "It was pretty much a bloodbath," one insider said.

There's no word on what Chang plans to do next, though he apparently has another job lined up. At ABN, he and a more-junior trader worked closely with the sales desk to maintain an inventory of asset- and mortgage-backed securities that they bought and sold on the secondary market.

ABN intends to replace Chang. But qualified recruits will be difficult to come by until the bank has a new parent or is no longer a takeover target. Arne Gross, ABN's global trading chief in London, is handling Chang's duties for the time being.

As for the laid-off sales pros, the unidentified staffers were part of a 27-member sales team in New York that still pitches a wide variety of products, including ABS, residential and commercial MBS and investment-grade corporate bonds. Like Chang, the sales specialists were part of a trading and distribution platform that falls under the purview of U.S. financial-markets chief Dennis McHugh.

"We still have a vibrant sales force here," said managing director Bill Haley in New York. Haley added that ABN's senior management had been making plans to streamline its U.S. sales desk even before the bank went on the block earlier this year.

Also last week, ABN eliminated its commercial MBS trading team in New York, which was separate from the bank's much larger commercial-mortgage origination platform in Chicago.

As head of investment-grade capital markets, Haley oversees Brad Dansker's term-ABS underwriting unit in New York and Robert Graff's commercial-paper conduit team in Chicago. "For us, it's business as usual," Haley said, noting that ABN is running the books on some major term-securitizations that will soon hit the market.

Asset-backed syndicate chief Neil McPherson will lead the distribution effort for those offerings.



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