Bank of America-Merrill Lynch has poached Matthew Koder, a high profile banker from Swiss bank UBS AG , to head its corporate and investment banking business in Asia in the region's first major defection after the banker bonus season.

London-based Koder, who has nearly two decades experience in investment banking and capital markets, will relocate to Hong Kong to help BofA beef up its Asian franchise.

IFR, a Thomson Reuters publication, first reported Koder's move, which was confirmed by BofA. UBS was not available for comment. Koder will report to Brian Brille, BofA's president for Asia-Pacific.

Koder's move from London comes at a time when several European banks have been crying foul about onerous restrictions on bankers pay.

Industry groups in Europe feel that their banks are now facing a much harsher set of rules for bonuses than their U.S. and Asian counterparts, raising the risk that they lose their strongest talent.


UBS has dominated Asia's equity capital markets league table for the past six straight years despite losing some heavy hitters last year. Koder took the additional role as head of Asia ECM after UBS lost Steven Barg to Goldman Sachs last year.

He is an absolutely excellent banker, he is one of the best bankers that I have met in Asia, one Hong Kong-based head hunter said about Koder.

There is usually a lot of churn among bankers soon after the bonus season in January, and the headhunter said he expects some more big moves in the coming months.

I don't think the numbers (bonuses) are that bad, but people are whinging about the structure of the pay. There are a few in the pipeline, he added, referring to potential moves.

The headhunter declined to be identified as he is not authorized to speak to the media on client specific matters.

Koder worked with UBS for eight years as head of global capital markets based in both London and Hong Kong. Prior to joining UBS, he spent almost 10 years with Goldman.

UBS was left out of or given minor status in two of the world's largest stock offerings last year: the $20 billion plus IPOs of Agricultural Bank of China <1288.HK> <601288.SS>, and AIA Group <1299.HK>.

For the investment banking business, equity capital markets deals account for more than two-thirds of what a major foreign bank earns in Asia.

The 2010 IPO boom pushed that percentage even higher, with some banks earning an estimated $500 million in 2010 fees from Asia stock deals alone, according to Thomson Reuters.

The Asia Pacific region continues to be one of the most compelling growth opportunities for our business, Tom Montag, BofA's president of global banking and markets said in a statement.

Matthew's appointment will strengthen our ability to deliver best-in-class solutions to clients and accelerate our growth in this critical region.

BofA moved up to No. 7 last year on the Asia Pacific excluding Japan ECM league table, from no. 10 in 2009. It slipped to 10th in M&A, compared with UBS's No.3 ranking. (Additional reporting by Elzio Barreto; Writing by Denny Thomas; Editing by Lincoln Feast)