CLSA’s Headcount Slid 6% Last Year Amid Executive Departures
People walk past an exit of a commercial building in New York, U.S. (Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg)

CLSA’s Headcount Slid 6% Last Year Amid Executive Departures

CLSA Ltd.’s headcount declined 6% last year amid a string of departures of top managers at the Hong Kong brokerage.

The firm’s headcount fell to 1,808 at the end of 2020, while its parent, Beijing-based Citic Securities Co., boosted its staff by 20% in a bumper year for trading and dealmaking that saw earnings climb 22%, according to its annual results.

CLSA has been under increasing pressure since early 2019 to rein in costs and tighten pay as Citic asserts more control over the once freewheeling brokerage that it bought in 2013 as part of an international expansion.

Most of CLSA top executives left the firm in 2019 and the exodus continued in 2020 as well as this year. Recent departures include John Sun, who led the fixed income, currencies and commodities team, and five of an eight-member fixed income sales team in Hong Kong.

A representative for CLSA couldn’t immediately be reached via email or phone for a comment.

Last year also marked a turnaround for CLSA and Citic now plans to pump in more capital in the firm. CLSA swung from a loss in 2019 to generate 5.5% of the group’s profit. It was also part of a big deal this month, acting as a joint sponsor on Chinese search engine Baidu Inc.’s $3.1 billion Hong Kong share sale.

Citic plans to raise as much as 28 billion yuan ($4.3 billion) in a share sale and has earmarked 5 billion yuan of that for its subsidiaries. Citic said last year it plans to inject up to $1.5 billion in CLSA in batches.

The “international business has been an important part of the group and we saw a performance improvement at CLSA across various business lines last year,” Li Jiong, Citic Securities’ chief financial officer, said on an earnings call on Friday. “Our leverage in the overseas balance sheet is relative high and replenishing capital in CLSA is necessary if we want to further expand the business.”

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