What Sam Hocking did next
Whenever an Anglo-Saxon leaves a French bank unexpectedly, the journalist is apt to reach into his bag of cultural clichés as readily as the competitor assumes that he or she is being poached by another firm on an enormous package of pay and perks. But it seems the decision of Sam Hocking – a sometime journalist himself - to step down from leadership of the prime brokerage group at BNP Paribas is entirely his own.
Hocking came to BNP Paribas with strong family ties to the west coast. As head of global prime brokerage sales at Bank of America, he was the leading figure in the sale of the business to the French bank in the summer of 2008, but he had in fact only assumed that role the same year. He had started at Bank of America as the head of its newly opened Dallas office in 1999, and had later run both the west coast for the bank (from 2005) and all US regions (from 2007).
Building a global prime brokerage business on top of that US domestic franchise entailed adding European and Asian dimensions to it. The result was a crazy travel for the California-based Hocking, and not just to Paris either. In fact, he commuted weekly from San Francisco to New York, and had to spend increasing amounts of time in London and Hong Kong as he built a team to support the ambitions of the bank. So his decision to step down now really is a decision – unlike so many announcements of this kind - to go home and spend more time with his family.
The Hockings have three young sons, all of them under ten years old, and it is not hard to see why a hectic travel schedule and weekends only at home had ceased to make sense. If Sam Hocking wanted to stay in the prime brokerage industry without the air miles, or pick up a firm offer to return to the prime brokerage industry with a competitor, he would not be short of a berth. Instead, he is taking the summer off, and will be a full time father and husband until he decides what to do next.
The fact he can actually do this, and without naming an individual as his successor, is a measure of his achievement. Hocking leaves an excellent legacy at BNP Paribas, with managing director J.P. Muir and product development head Jeff Lowe running the original operation in New York, and the ex-Lehman industry veteran Matt Pinnock assuming the leadership role in London as managing director and head of prime brokerage services for Asia as well as Europe.
Pinnock is one of several key hires that make up an experienced prime brokerage team that was non-existent when Hocking took over from Todd Steinberg in early 2009. It includes Declan Breslin (managing director and global head of client service relationship management), Andrew Dawkins (managing director and head of Delta One sales, Americas), Ashish Patel (executive director and head of client service, Asia), James Scully (executive director and head of securities lending and synthetic sales trading in Asia-ex-Japan), Andrea Sotgiu (director in Delta One sales), Jazil Ghias (director in emerging market equity and derivative sales) and Maxine Hughes (director and senior relationship manager).
In retrospect, it is obvious that Sam Hocking was far too thoughtful and curious a man to be satisfied with simply operating the machine he had created. This is not just because his varied career, which ranges across soccer, teaching and journalism as well as investment banking, attests to an insatiable curiosity. Even in the narrowest sense, he had grasped the predicament of the prime brokerage industry and its hedge fund clients in markets that are unlikely ever to normalise again, in the sense of returning to the status quo ante the crisis. It would be pity if the ideas he was developing are lost to an industry which would benefit mightily from fresh thinking.
Written by Dominic Hobson