In the past 18 months few people in Asian broking have hired with the gusto of Deutsche Bank's equity boss, Ed Peter. However, he may now have some competition from ABN AMRO.

For those people who assumed ABN had "de-emphasised" broking, Alastair Barr's latest round of hiring - he will announce 24 new recruits in the coming days - will cause them pause.

New head of equities, Barr moved from running Australia four months ago with a remit from Amsterdam to rebuild the Asian broking business. The Scot, who is an ex-analyst and has been in broking for 21 years, is a straight-talker and says anyone who is cynical about his mission is justified, given the firm's track record in the Asian broking sphere (see related article below with his predecessor).

He points out, however, that when he was given Australia and New Zealand to run, the franchise was at 9-10 in the rankings and by the time he left it was 5th. He has a similar target for Asia, which he now runs as well as Oz.

On arrival in Hong Kong, he inherited 272 people, culled 55, and is looking to hire a total of 40. In that sense, net-net he is not increasing his staff, although the raft of hires he is going to announce are intended to upgrade ABN's overall franchise.

He says his arrival during SARS in April proved beneficial, since the exceptional uncertainty made it an ideal hirer's market. "It was an ideal time to rebuild a franchise through hiring," he says, admitting that luck rather than foresight was responsible for this boon, and that hiring conditions have already tightened up as Asian equity markets have started to boom.

He places ABN at ninth in the Asian broking league at the moment, and says his goal is to move the firm up to fifth. "We are a genuine regional broker, and have seats on every exchange," he notes.

Of the 24 initial hires he will announce, 12 are in research, and eight in sales.

Appropriately enough the first round of hires to be announced are in Taiwan where ABN had historically been the number one player only to see itself slip to 9-10th.

The Taiwan hires are:

James Wang, who will head Taiwan research and joins from Merrill Lynch where he was number one ranked in regional steel before moving into electronic components and TFTs.

Also from Merrill, Nicholas Trinh, who joins as joint-head of equity sales, and comes with six years experience.

DRAM analyst, Crystal Lee arrives from DRAMeXchange, of which she was a founding member and which is a spot market for DRAM in Taiwan.

Howard Man joins as bank analyst from McKinsey where he specialised in the Taipei financial institutions practice.

Ingrid Yang will help rebuild IC design name research coverage and Roland Wee becomes hardware analyst, joining with five years of Taiwan fund management experience with GSIC, Straits Lion and ING. Tim Lee joins as a research assistant for banks from ING.

And finally, Maryann Tseng joins from Sinopac Securities as a sales trader servicing QFII accounts and prop desks.