Age 23 - Is This Banker The Youngest VP Ever ?

Zain Latif

Each year thousands of graduates / MBAs find work in the financial markets. All start at (or near) the bottom of the ladder, and hope that one day they will make it big. Few do. And those who eventually achieve success usually face a relatively long wait. Not so one young man who, at 23, just might be the youngest VP ever to attain that position in a major investment bank.

But Zain Latif is no ordinary young man. Graduating with a Masters from Cass Business School at the tender age of just 19, Latif secured internships at both Goldman and JPMorgan, before joining HSBC's graduate program in 2004, which led to stints in trading in New York and Hong Kong. He returned to London early last year, joining the bank's newly formed Illiquid Assets Group. Finding it tough operating in more established emerging markets (where competition is fierce), Latif decided to scour for opportunities in Africa, and particularly Nigeria. And he didn't have to wait long for his first major success - bringing the first unrated Nigerian bank, FCMB, to the international markets in a debt / equity hybrid structure with a combined facility of $125m.

The publicity surrounding Latif's coup clearly gave him a high profile, and it wasn't long before headhunters came after him to tempt him away with promises of untold riches. Turning down lucrative offers from a number of other financial institutions, Latif recently resigned his position at HSBC. Well placed headhunting sources say that he is joining Merrill Lynch later this month, coming in at VP level to help build their illiquid assets business. He will have prime responsibility for Africa.

Although a recent survey of bankers undertaken by eFinancialCareers found that 45% of respondents didn't plan to retire until they were between 45 and 50 years of age, young bulls like Zain Latif are clearly storming the barricades. Adrian Ezra, founder and CEO of global search firm Execuzen, said that 'although the financial markets still benefits from wise and experienced heads, there are huge opportunities (and financial rewards) for talented young professionals who can demonstrate that they are capable of bringing in revenue streams. Age is no barrier to success (at either end of the spectrum). If you can show you can deliver, you will prosper'. And although it is difficult to work out how much Latif will earn at Merrill (he may well have been brought in with a guaranteed bonus), industry sources speculate that, if he is as good as he appears (and brings home the bacon), the young banker could well earn between $650,000 - $1m in his first year.

Our attempts to contact the talented Mr Latif have so far proved unsuccessful.

Is Zain Latif the youngest ever VP to hold that position in a major investment bank ? Do you know of anyone younger ? Are there any other stars out there who made it big at relatively young ages (at Director, or Managing Director level) ? Let us know - send in your posts in confidence to news@hereisthecity.com 

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