* BarCap hires Astaire for key UK role
* Battle for UK corporate broking clients heats up
By Steve Slater
LONDON, Feb 29 (Reuters) - Barclays Capital has poached the head of corporate broking from Bank of America Merrill Lynch to take on a senior investment banking role.
Mark Astaire, who was BofAML's London-based head of corporate broking, will join Barclays Capital as vice-chairman of investment banking in early June, a person familiar with the matter said.
He is expected to work with British companies and work across BarCap's corporate broking and advisory teams. Alisdair Gayne remains head of corporate broking.
BarCap declined to comment. BofAML confirmed Astaire had resigned and said Simon Mackenzie-Smith would continue to oversee its UK & Ireland Corporate & Investment Banking business, which includes corporate broking, as chairman.
The departure of Astaire, who joined BofAML in 2004, adds to a bad month for BofAML's corporate broking unit after Andrew Osborne, a managing director, was fined 350,000 pounds by Britain's financial regulator in a high profile market abuse case.
Osborne has left the bank, and Simon Fraser, previously co-head of the unit, also retired at the end of last year. BAML said it hired four new managing directors in the business last year and plans to make more senior hires.
The changes come as a fight for corporate broking clients hots up in Britain, as banks eye the clients of Hoare Govett after Royal Bank of Scotland sold the business to Jefferies.
A mainly British phenomenon, corporate brokers offer advice to clients for minimal fees, usually in the hope of winning their bank more lucrative business, such as M&A or equity fundraising, further down the line. They also act as a go-between for their clients and investors.
BarCap has been ramping up its corporate broking teams and has won 26 broking mandates since the start of 2010 and advises eight FTSE 100 firms, including BHP Billiton and IAG.