(Pictured: Peter Baker)
Mercer is having another go at rebooting its Mercer Sentinel business with the surprising recruitment of Peter Baker, the head of securities services in Australia and New Zealand for BNP Paribas. The investment operations, custody consulting and transitions management subsidiary of Mercer has been without a permanent head for the past three months.
Baker, who had been in the top job at BNP Paribas for less than a year, is one of the most experienced custody executives in Australia. He previously headed up State Street’s securities servicing operations in London and in Hong Kong.
“It was totally unexpected,” global head of coverage and client solutions at BNP Paribas Securities Services business for BNP Paribas, Charley Cock, said last week in Sydney. He had flown from Paris because of Baker’s news.
“We didn’t have a plan B for this,” he said. “We will be working on a replacement. It really is business as usual though. We don’t run this as a one-man show… We are launching a search internally and externally and hopefully will come to a short list fairly quickly. We’re also in the midst of our budget process.”
Cock is the longest-serving member of BNP Paribas’ global securities services executive committee and a frequent visitor to Australia. He said that of his eight regional direct reports, seven are local nationals. The past two heads of Australia, before Baker, were French, but they were preceded by two Australians.
“I’m very happy the way the Australian business is going,” he said. BNP Paribas has moved up from number five to number three in assets under custody. It announced last week that it had picked the Australian Unity business after a competitive tender (see separate report).
Mercer Sentinel has had a rough trot with its senior staff in recent years, losing long-standing executives Lounarda David, Marian Azer and Robin Solomon in a two-year period. Mercer Sentinel even lost its acting head, Jodie Hampshire, to Russell Investments after Solomon left in April last year. Ravi Nevile was moved from Mercer Singapore and spent about a year in the Sydney role, recruiting Jonathan Hall and Kristina Ross, but resigned in July to take a job with a sovereign wealth fund in the Middle East. Nevile was given a mandate to rebuild the Mercer Sentinel business, with increased staffing and a renewed focus on custody consulting.