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Kemp Named Global Head of FX at Merrill; deSa to Leave

Michael deSa, most recently co-head of global FX and rates at Merrill Lynch in London, is to leave the bank in June, a spokesperson confirms. Stephen Kemp, who joins in New York from Morgan Stanley, will succeed him as managing director and global head of the FX group.

At Morgan Stanley, Kemp was managing director and head of FX trading in New York since 1998, prior to which he was a director of FX trading at Credit Suisse First Boston, also in New York. Before this, he held a number of senior positions within the FX trading group at Bankers Trust in London, New York, Singapore and Tokyo, where he was a director of FX trading in his last role with the bank.

According to Merrill, deSa will stay on through the end of June to “ensure a seamless transition of responsibilities”. His decision to leave has been on the cards for some time, adds the spokesperson, so that he could pursue “some longstanding outside interests, both personal and professional”.

“It has been a great run at Merrill Lynch, but now that we have established such a strong franchise and we are seeing such solid performance, I feel the time is right for me to move on to other things,” deSa says. “Merrill is a great company and I have every confidence in the team and in Stephen’s ability to take the group to the next level.”

The change at the top of Merrill’s FX business comes two years after the bank’s chairman and CEO Stan O’Neal identified the business as a key priority, at which point the bank embarked on a global hiring spree – including deSa’s hire. On his departure, Merrill notes deSa’s contribution to the group in terms of hiring “top talent” across the business and significantly growing its FX revenue stream.

Despite this, sources say there have been a few departures in recent months, including reports that New York-based Adam Kreysar, co-head of FX trading (alongside Marcus Browning) has left, although the bank declines to confirm this. Additionally, a team of FX options traders is confirmed as having left to join Lehman Brothers in London.

deSa joined Merrill as head of the global FX business in November 2001, and took his latest role in October 2003 when the bank brought together its global FX and rates departments under deSa and Barry Wittlin, previously head of the global rates business. Day to day responsibilities remained unchanged at the time, with the move intended to ensure that the groups would work more closely on a strategic level.

He joined Merrill from D&D Partners, a private equity management group which he set up as a joint venture between himself and Deutsche Bank, where he had previously been a member of the executive board and chief operating officer of Deutsche Asset Management from 1999 to 2000.

Prior to this, deSa was deputy group chief executive and chief executive of Deutsche Asia Pacific Commercial and Investment Banking in Singapore. He joined Deutsche in 1994 as head of FX, having jumped ship from Citibank with about a dozen senior FX dealers. He held a number of senior positions at Citigroup between 1977 and 1994, including head of FX.

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