* Chong served as deputy chief at top-performing unit
* 20-year Maybank veteran appointment brings continuity
* Management changes triggered by race for group CEO job
By Yantoultra Ngui
KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 13 (Reuters) - Malayan Banking Bhd , Malaysia's biggest bank by assets, on Thursday named John Chong head of its investment banking unit, entrusting the job of maintaining strong growth at Maybank's star division to its former number two.
Chong, 46, had served as interim chief of the unit since Tengku Zafrul Aziz resigned as Maybank Investment Bank's chief executive officer last September. Tengku Zafrul left to become head of investment banking at its closest rival, CIMB Group Holdings Bhd, after losing out in a race to lead the whole of Maybank.
Investment banking turned in the biggest earnings growth at Maybank in 2012, nearly tripling pre-tax profit compared with a year earlier, when the division contributed 3.5 percent of Maybank's total pre-tax profit. Maybank reports earnings for 2013 on Feb. 27.
Maybank group president and Chief Executive Officer Abdul Farid Alias said in a statement that the bank is confident Chong can strengthen its investment banking unit "as a regional financial powerhouse and continue its pioneering spirit".
Chong's official promotion from deputy chief of investment banking caps a 20-year career at Maybank, Southeast Asia's fourth largest bank by assets. He is credited with leading the bank's debt capital market business to its current top ranking position in Malaysia.
The appointment is the latest in a series of shuffles in Maybank's management. It two top executives - Khairussaleh Ramli as well as Tengku Zafrul - after they lost out to Abdul Farid for the group CEO job.
Khairussaleh in December joined RHB Capital Bhd as group deputy managing director and chief executive of its commercial arm. He had left Maybank's Indonesian unit Bank Internasional Indonesia's in September, having led it to a net profit leap of 81 percent in 2012 from a year earlier.
Taswin Zakaria took over as head of the Indonesian unit, which has been Maybank's second-largest earnings contributor, making up 7 percent of its total profit before tax in 2012.
(Reporting by Yantoultra Ngui; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)