Since his arrival at the height of SARS last year, ABN AMRO's loquacious broking supremo, Alastair Barr has not been shy of hiring people. And with a series of announcements coming out yesterday, he has now hired a total of 48 people.

The latest round of hires involved 17 people, spread across Seoul, Bombay, Jakarta, Taipei, London, New York and Hong Kong.

To name but a few: from Deutsche Bank Patrick Mann arrives for a senior sales role in Hong Kong; four have been addded in Korea; four join in Taipei including Karen Lin who comes from Templeton to set up a new small and mid-cap research product, and James Cheng who joins from UBS's sales trading desk; Alex Lewis joins the Asian sales desk in London from Lehman's hedge fund sales desk; and Myles MacMahon joins from CSFB to become head of New York sales.

Barr tells FinanceAsia of the recruiting: "We've made a number of hires in research - which you'd expect - but also in sales in London and New York." Barr, who says Asian equity trading volumes reached stellar levels in January and February, adds that the recent round of hires are part of the firm's commitment to build a top five broking franchise in the region.

"With this round of hires," says Barr, who relocated to Hong Kong from Australia last May, "we have got over the issue of ABN's commitment to equities. This was not a question I was asked anymore by any of the candidates."

Barr is keen to emphasise that in spite of all his hiring his headcount has been roughly static, as the past nine months have seen him retrench as many staff as he has hired. His team now numbers 220 in Asia (excluding Australia).

Barr's hiring spree has seen ABN upgrade its team, but he admits that future hiring will no longer be so simple: "The market is now getting a lot tighter for good staff, now that interest is growing again in Asia." And while he says he has not offered any guaranteed bonuses to any staff, he predicts the guaranteed bonus will soon return as the regional broking market gets hotter.

Barr says he is still looking to bolster the Korean research team with new hires, but otherwise feels he is "almost done". And for those who are looking forward to the Hong Kong Sevens, Barr promises a better than usual ABN corporate box. Refusing to give much away, however, he simply hints that the theme has something to do with "curries".