Japanese firm accused of poaching analyst

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HENDERSON Crosthwaite, the stockbroker owned by the Bank of Yokohama, has accused the rival firm of Yamaichi of breaching an unwritten 'no poaching' rule by recruiting a top Henderson analyst to head its research team.

Yamaichi, one of the big four Japanese securities houses, is expected to announce this week that it has hired Bill Myers, Henderson's highly rated food retailing expert, to spearhead a big expansion of its coverage of UK equities. He is due to begin as head of research next month.

His departure is understood to have provoked a row in the Henderson boardroom. One director complained to Yamaichi. 'There has been an exchange of words,' confirmed a well-placed source.

At the centre of the dispute is the tradition that Japanese houses should not poach staff from one another. The unspoken rule still operates in Japan between the big houses but not so much in London, at least not among gaijin - non-Japanese.

Although moves between the big four in London are rare, they are not normally controversial. Neil MacKinnnon, the economist now at Citicorp, earlier moved from Nomura to Yamaichi. Mr Myers' departure is particularly sensitive, because his wife still works at Henderson. The sudden shortage of City analysts - from a glut two years ago - has also exacerbated the difficulty for Henderson and other firms. There has been a flood of analyst moves in recent months, creating numerous vacancies.

David Potter, chief executive of Guinness Mahon, which owns Henderson and is owned by the Bank of Yokohama, denied there had been a big clash: 'I had every respect for the quality of Bill's work. I'm sorry to lose him because he's first class. But he's gone with my best wishes. There's no ill will.'

Mr Myers, 47, is expected to join Yamaichi next month to expand the UK equities research team of seven. It is thought the team could grow to 20 analysts in three years.

Yamaichi, which has concentrated on gilts and Japanese equities, plans slow but steady growth in UK equities. It aims to avoid the perceived mistakes of Nomura, which sacked dozens of analysts and salesmen last year but has since been recruiting aggressively.

Mr Myers' first task is to recruit analysts in the consumer products areas of food retailing and manufacturing, stores, brewing and pharmaceuticals.

A former factory shift manager with Tate & Lyle, he only arrived in the City in 1988. He was the first to predict Asda's share price collapse in 1990 and brought a lot of business to Henderson.

Yamaichi has quietly been strengthening its research team, recruiting from SG Warburg both John Shepperd as chief economist and Nigel Richardson to head bond research.