UPDATE 1-Merrill's chief Asia strategist leaves firm - sources

Fri Jan 9, 2009 8:41am GMT

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By Saeed Azhar

SINGAPORE Jan 9 (Reuters) - Mark Matthews, the chief Asia strategist at Merrill Lynch, has left the firm as part of restructuring after the U.S. bank was taken over by Bank of America (BAC.N), sources told Reuters on Friday.

Matthews, who was a frequent guest on business news channels, joins a number of executives who have departed since Bank of America completed the acquisition of Merrill last week.

A source familiar with Matthews' departure told Reuters there were other people in the research department in Asia who will leave as part of the restructuring. He asked not to be identified and declined to provide details because the company is not publicly speaking about individual departures.

A Merrill spokesman also declined to comment on the departure. Matthews did not immediately respond, but sent a message to contacts earlier this week giving his personal email address.

"I wish this email could be addressed to you personally. It has been a real pleasure servicing you and corresponding with you from ML," Matthews wrote in the email.

Bank of America had said in December it plans to eliminate 30,000 to 35,000 jobs over three years, reflecting its pending purchase of Merrill Lynch & Co MER.N and weaker business activity stemming from the economic recession.

The cuts could affect as much as 11.4 percent of the combined companies' workforce of about 308,000 people, and are intended to help save $7 billion of annual costs.

Matthews, who joined Merrill in 2005, had started out in equities as an analyst in Bangkok for Nomura Securities in 1993.

His name last appeared on a research report seen by Reuters dated Jan 6.

Among high profile Merrill departures, Greg Fleming, one of the architects of Merrill's sale to Bank of America is leaving the combined company. [ID:nN08543360]

Yale University said Fleming -- who had been set to head corporate and investment banking at BofA after the deal was completed on Jan. 1 -- would join its corporate law center as a senior research scholar this month.

On Thursday a senior executive in London, Brent Clapacs, said he was leaving and earlier in the week Merrill's brokerage head, Bob McCann, announced his departure, sparking concern among investors about the outlook for Merrill's lucrative financial advisory business.

Many other Merrill executives have kept their jobs at the bank, including former Chief Executive John Thain, who is now president of global banking, securities and wealth management. (Additional reporting by Neil Chatterjee; Editing by Lincoln Feast)

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