BAML hires RenCap veteran to head Russia ops
* Pertsovsky to add Europe, emerging markets role
* Some foreign players withdraw as state banks expand
* BAML seeks Russian banking licence
MOSCOW, Dec 13 (Reuters) - Bank of America Merrill Lynch has hired a former top executive at Renaissance Capital to head its Moscow operation, beefing up its presence as competition from state-owned rivals forces some Western banks to retreat from Russia.
Alexander Pertsovsky will also join BAML's executive committee covering Europe and the emerging markets, excluding Asia, the business group's president, Alex Wilmot-Sitwell, said in an internal memo to staff on Thursday.
The high-profile move follows the takeover of Renaissance Capital, the Russia-focused investment bank founded by New Zealander Stephen Jennings, by billionaire Russian politician Mikhail Prokhorov's investment firm Onexim.
Some Western banks are reducing their presence in Russia, with Credit Suisse recently announcing that it would shift some investment banking advisory staff from Moscow to London as part of a broader cost-cutting drive.
"That's not what clients want - they want to have access to top people, to decision makers," Pertsovsky told Reuters in a telephone interview after his appointment.
State-controlled Russian players, Sberbank and VTB , have built out their investment banking operations, competing aggressively for a shrinking pool of fees from Russian merger and capital markets deals.
Yet BAML, the product of a takeover of Merrill Lynch by Charlotte-based Bank of America at the height of the 2008 financial crisis, still sees opportunities in Russia as market reforms make it easier for foreigners to trade stocks and bonds.
"The investment banking and corporate banking markets are starting to normalise," Pertsovsky said, adding that BAML offered the deal-making capacity and balance sheet to finance transactions on a global scale.
BAML has not yet secured a Russian banking licence, but one could be granted in late 2013 or early 2014, according to a source familiar with the bank's plans. That would open up access to rouble-denominated fixed income markets.
The bank is a lead adviser to state-controlled oil major Rosneft on its $55 billion acquisition of Anglo-Russian oil firm, Russia's largest-ever takeover deal.
Pertsovsky, who headed Renaissance Capital and its parent, Renaissance Group, until June, will start his new job in February. Former central banker Konstantin Korishchenko stood down as BAML's Russia head in September.