* Chinese bank seeks to expand commodities business
* Initial focus on investor products, physical metals
By Melanie Burton
SYDNEY, Feb 4 (Reuters) - Bank of China International (BOCI) has recruited former Goldman Sachs metals trading chief as an adviser to help it expand its commodities business.
Chinese banks are stepping away from mainly consumer-led business to take advantage of a tough climate for Western brokers - grappling with strict European and U.S. regulations - to expand their presence in natural resources, and trading in particular.
BOCI’s appointment of Stephen Branton-Speak as an adviser is one of the highest profile metals industry hires by a Chinese bank since Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing Ltd bought the London Metal Exchange (LME) for $2.2 billion in 2012.
Branton-Speak was also on the LME board.
The initial focus of the expansion will be on investor products and physical metals, Arthur Fan, London-based chief executive of BOCI Global Commodities, told Reuters.
BOCI is the investment banking arm of state-backed Bank of China , the country’s No.4 lender by market value.
Last week, South Africa’s Standard Bank said it would sell a 60 percent stake in its London-based global markets unit to China’s ICBC for $765 million. The sale includes the metals unit of Standard Bank, a member of the LME.
In December, a unit of China’s Shenzhen-listed GF Securities applied to trade in the LME ring. Its local unit, GF Financial Markets Ltd, bought the commodities brokerage unit of Natixis, including its LME ring dealing business, as the French bank wound up its commodities broking unit.
BOCI became the first Chinese member of the LME to much fanfare in 2012, but markets participants have said it has failed to build on momentum.
Branton-Speak built up Goldman Sachs’ physical trading desk in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis to become one of the giants on Wall Street, as banks made a bid to offset the loss of income from the forced closure of proprietary trading desks due to stricter regulatory reforms.
As one of the LME executive committee members, he also played a leading part in steering the LME’s $2.2 billion sale before retiring in December of 2012.
Branton-Speak joined Goldman Sachs in 1997 as a metals trader, before became a managing director in 2006 and a partner in 2008. He was also on the management committee of the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA). He is also principal consultant with Calnic Commodity Consultancy, according to his LinkedIn page.