A bigger banker than life, who was assigned to accept the Hong Kong Stock Exchange globally

In early January, following the early departure of its CEO, the Hong Kong Stock Exchange was locked in discussions about a crucial decision for its future, which is the heart of Asia’s most important financial center, a “bridge between China and the Western capital markets.”

The selection of Hong Kong stock exchanges and clearing managers was abrupt. Go according to tradition, place someone from mainland China or Hong Kong to keep the ship afloat in times of trouble for the city հարաբերությունների for relations with Beijing. Or bet on a Portuguese-speaking Argentine with a Croatian passport, nicknamed Gucco, known in the table rooms of London, New York and the floors of Buenos Aires.

To the surprise of the Hong Kong institution, which assumed that 2021 was a time of adventure, HKEX chose February Nicolas Aguzi – Former head of JPMorgan’s operations in Asia, a Hong Kong resident since 2012, a domestic banker known for his stratospheric growth through the United States.

Aguzin joined JPMorgan in 1990 in Buenos Aires. When JPMorgan CEO Amy Dimon signed a press release announcing Aguzin’s new job at HKEX, she even used the Gucho brand, a Spanish pun that hinted at her reputation as a big character. “Gucho is a strong leader, a man,” said Dimon.

On Monday, before his first day in office as head of HKEX, the focus of Aguzin was on a non-Chinese-speaking 52-year-old man. But that attention, say former JPMorgan partners and senior financial industry executives, misses the purpose of the appointment. Aguzin, known at JPMorgan as a smooth operator-full negotiator, has been brought in to revive the bureau’s global ambitions, risking re-dependence on narrow regional flows փոփոխ Beijing’s changing signals.

“Over the past few years, the Hong Kong Stock Exchange has made great strides in gaining a foothold in China. It still has to work hard to connect with the world,” wrote Weijian Shan, chairman of Hong Kong’s largest PAG, investment group, in China’s Caijing magazine. : “As a foreigner, Gucco needs to better understand how to make an effort in this area, which can add value to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.”

Others see a more immediate prospect of new business. “I see him persuading Southeast Asian-Latin American companies to list there,” said one person who worked closely with him.

Aguzin does not inherit a troubled business. Legacy of his predecessor at HKEX – another former JPMorgan banker – Charles Lee widely regarded as a high success. He devoted his decade-long leadership to promoting close cooperation with continental exchanges in Shanghai and Shenzhen. He pioneered schemes that led to greater investment flows to mainland China through Hong Kong.

During Lee’s tenure, the market capitalization of HKEX companies more than doubled to $ 53 tonnes of HKE ($ 6.7 tonnes), making it the world’s most popular public offering site for the first seven years of the last 12 years. The companies raised HK $ 398 billion in 2020, the highest level in a decade. IPO հոս trade flows hit record volumes in recent months

HKEX’s միլի 32bn bid for London Stock Exchange Group launched as the world focused on anti-government protests in Hong Kong rather than the strength of its stock market © AP

But even Lee acknowledged that the exchange was largely dependent on Chinese capital and liquidity. Chinese companies now account for more than half of Hong Kong-listed companies and more than three-quarters of the total value of listed companies.

Lee’s attempts to correct it, which came in 2019 in the form of a surprise bid of 32 billion pounds on the London Stock Exchange, which He shone out quickly and humiliatinglyLaunched in the spotlight of the world anti-government demonstrations In Hong Kong, rather than on the strength of its stock market, the failure exacerbated the difficulties of reconciling the economic and political interests of Asia’s “West”.

A member of the HKEX board complained about the aborted seizure of the LSE, saying that international integration should be a priority under Aguzin. “It should have been done a long time ago,” they said, adding that both Beijing and Hong Kong would benefit from closer ties between the West and Chinese capital markets.

Several people close to JPMorgan said that Aguzin’s appointment meant that the exchange did not give up significant international mergers, possibly even another LSE slope.

If this is his first major initiative, say former JPMorgan partners, it will greatly affect the skills of the negotiator-diplomat Gucho. His focus may be on deals, but it will be another task to join Hong Kong in its wider efforts to protect its reputation as an international financial center in Asia after a controversial counterattack by Beijing. National Security Law խիստ Strict restrictions on coronavirus boundaries. HKEX may have to fight hard to get regulatory approval for any deal in many Western countries, depending on their relationship with China.

$ 1.3 million

Nikola Aguzin’s basic annual salary at HKEX

“If Hong Kong really wants to be the number one company in the world in the next decade, listing the best companies, having someone who is secular, who really understands emerging markets, because he grew up in one, but was Nick trained in world-class institutions. makes sense. “- says Venezuelan venture capitalist Mickey Malka, Aguzini’s old associate.

As head of HKEX, Aguzin will receive an annual salary of $ 1.3 million, about 7% more than Li. He will receive 211,756 shares, currently valued at about $ 100 million, which can be sold in full after two years of service, plus a performance bonus. However, paying a salary is unlikely to be his main motivation. Aguzini’s fortune reaches double-digit millions of dollars, partly through his stake in MercadoLibre, Latin America’s response to Amazon պատասխան Alibaba. MercadoLibre board member Aguzin has sold half of his company stock for more than $ 7 million over the past few years.

Argentine billionaire Marcos Galperin, who founded MercadoLibre, described Aguzini as “stubborn”. Aguzin was the chief banker of the MercadoLibre IPO, with a market capitalization of now $ 69 billion. “I met him in 2001, when we were a disgraceful start-up with less than $ 10 million, he was with JPMorgan,” Galperin said. “I told him we would never hire an investment banker. “Six years ago, he ousted our IPO.”

Aguzin did not elaborate on his immediate plans for HKEX or his long-term vision. In a keynote address at the Asian Metal Exchange Summit in London last week, he reminded his audience that Argentina is a country known for its “wine, steak, football and tango”, but for Hong Kong’s position in greater Chinese history. , he cautiously referred to the “main role” of the city.

In a video released by HKEX on Friday, Aguzin said it was “still early days” to talk about strategy, but said he wanted to increase the exchange while remaining “anchored in China”.

“He could do whatever he wanted, the fact that he wants to be the head of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange tells you a lot about risk-taking and the appetite for influence,” Malka said. “He always had the JPMorgan brand shield, but now this is him, his career, his face. Taking this job shows that he has a very entrepreneurial mindset. The Argentine runs things in Asia.

At the end of his first week, people close to Aguzini began to complain about the lack of mandarin abilities. Chinese-speaking friends explained that his appointment gave more importance to his nickname. One of the friends told Chinese speakers that Gucho was like the characters to “take care” of the company, to “raise” funds.

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