Citi's healthcare banker exodus shows risk of rainmakers leaving

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Citi's healthcare banker exodus shows risk of rainmakers leaving

Chris Hite left Citi nearly 20 months ago now. His exit, however, still seems to be making itself felt. 

Hite was Citi's big healthcare rainmaker. Based in New York, he was Citi's global head of healthcare investment banking for nearly 12 years before he quit to become executive vice president and vice chairman at Royalty Pharma, a former client that invests in drug development.

When Hite left, Citi insiders say a lot of his team went too.

"Everyone left on the back of Chris Hite, our global head, joining Royalty Pharma," says one former member of Hite's team. "He was one of the best bankers in the sector. He had the key relationships in U.S. and Europe that were keeping us busy."

Hite's relationships brought in deals with Roche Holding, Shire, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer and Ely Lilly. In 2019, he worked on Celgene Corp.’s $74 billion sale to Bristol-Myers Squibb. Without Hite, his colleagues feared the deals would dry up.

In the wake of Hite's departure in February 2020, at least nine people have left the healthcare team in the U.S., two have left in Asia and at least two have left in Europe.

Citi's post-Hite U.S. healthcare exits include: Jennifer Fox (the former co-head of Americas healthcare investment banking, who left for another client, Nuvation Bio, in October 2020); Toby King (head of North America healthcare, who left for SVB Leerink in May 2021); Kristian Humer (a former MD who left for Viridian Therapeutics in July 2021); Rizwan Velji (a former MD who left for William Blair in September 2021); Ben Carpenter (another MD who left to co-head JPMorgan's healthcare team in April 2021); Chris Gartin (an MD in healthcare banking who joined JPMorgan in June 2021); Jaewon Kim (a Citi director who went to Orum Therapeutics in May 2021); Jorge Barreiro ( who joined Deutsche's healthcare team as an MD in September 2021); and Brad Wolff (the former head of West Coast life sciences at Citi, who left for Evercore in June, along with a team of juniors). 

In Asia, the healthcare exits include: Chao Lu (the former head of Asia healthcare investment banking, who left in March 2021); and Lila Miron (the other former head of Asia healthcare banking who left for a client in June 2021).

And in Europe, Gaëtan Bovolenta has just left the London healthcare team to become an MD at BNP Paribas, while healthcare MD Kevin Gallagher is reportedly in talks to join MindMaze, a brain technology company backed by Leonardo DiCaprio.

Citi declined to comment on all the departures, but the exits are understood to be a small fraction of the 150 people in the bank's new global healthcare, consumer and wellness franchise. The bank has spent the past year trying to plug the gaps. - It just announced the appointment of Sumit Khedeker as head of healthcare investment banking for the Americas; Chuck Adams is joining from Goldman Sachs as vice chairman of the new healthcare, consumer and wellness group. Three directors Massimiliano Riso and Elliot Jenks in the U.S. and Gino Mbetse in Europe, were appointed this summer. 

Nonetheless, Citi surely still needs to make replacement hires at managing director level and is understood to be investing in talent across Europe, North America and Asia. As banks begin making decisions on bonus allocations for 2021, Citi's healthcare banker exodus looks like a cautionary tale. - If top staff aren't happy and leave, a lot of people could follow them out the door.  

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Contact: sbutcher@efinancialcareers.com in the first instance. Whatsapp/Signal/Telegram also available (Telegram: @SarahButcher)

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