There were some long faces and moist eyes at Morgan StanleyÆs Exchange Square headquarters yesterday morning, as Michael Berchtold announced to staff his departure from Asia. Indeed, this was no ordinary departure announcement, since Berchtold has been in the region since 1990 and had fostered the careers of a whole generation of Morgan Stanley bankers in Asia.

Berchtold û who is only 42 û took over the investment banking division at age 35 and oversaw an era in which the firm played a dominant role in the Asian capital markets and won FinanceAsiaÆs Best Investment Bank award three times. It was an era in which Berchtold managed to foster a genuine team ethic, which saw Morgan StanleyÆs IB division suffer very little staff turnover.

ôThere has been a lot of continuity,ö says Berchtold. ôIn many ways the atmosphere we have created here has made it feel more like a family than a bank. So announcing my departure was quite an emotional moment.ö

In fact, Berchtold says the reason for his relocation was partly-driven by his real family. He has three children, with the eldest being 15. All his children have been raised in Asia, and he felt the time was right to reintegrate them into America ahead of their going to college. In December they interviewed with schools in Orange County, and were accepted in March.

Berchtold spoke to John Mack about his decision to return to the US and stated that he would like to stay involved with Morgan Stanley and with Asia and be based in Los Angeles. Mack and the global investment banking head, Walid Chammah, both agreed and created for him the role of vice-chairman of investment banking. The role will see him discuss Asian issues with US clients, and also return to Asia frequently.

Berchtold has agreed to stay in Asia until the end of the year - as president - although his family will relocate in the summer.

He cedes the title of head of investment banking to his protTgT, Matthew Ginsburg, who was formerly BerchtoldÆs chief operating officer and most recently, head of the financial institutions group. Berchtold says he leaves the region feeling like both Asia and the firm are on a high. ôWe have increased our headcount 10% year to date, and we have never had a better pipeline than we have now.ö

BerchtoldÆs move comes amid a period of great change at the US firm's Asian operations. Yesterday was new China boss, Wei ChristiansonÆs first day (having joined from Citigroup), while the new CEO for the region, Hans Schuettler was recently relocated from Germany.

Amid the general reorganisation there has been an injection of younger blood. With Paul AielloÆs departure to run Star Television, the opportunity was taken to split TMT and bring mandarin-speaking Alex Clavel back to Asia from New York to run media and telecoms, and promote fellow executive director, Daniel Wetstein to run tech. And with GinsburgÆs elevation, the new head of FIG will be Will McLane, a first year managing director.

ôItÆs a question of bringing through passionate, strong, young bankers into roles of responsibility,ö says Berchtold. ôItÆs a return to first principles. YouÆve got to keep managing the pyramid.ö

Among the key deals that Berchtold has worked on over the years are: an early block trade for Wharf in 1993; TemasekÆs $1 billion exchangeable into SingTel in 1998; eight deals for Singapore Power; plus, of course, the major China privatisations, China Unicom, Sinopec, China Telecom, Chalco and China Construction Bank.

But perhaps BerchtoldÆs chief success was in the way he managed his team and engendered loyalty û some even jokingly compared his division to a frat house. And he can claim credit for mentoring many of the regionÆs most successful bankers û some of whom are still at the firm and some of whom have recently gone on to big roles elsewhere. Indeed, apart from the afore-mentioned Aiello, the former Korea head, Jason Shin has gone to Vogo as a founding partner; Jonathan Zhu has gone to Bain Capital; and Sheldon Trainor now runs investment banking at Merrill Lynch.

Ginsburg will aim to retain a similarly charismatic culture. ôWe have a great group of seasoned bankers, and a very deep bench,ö says Ginsburg. ôAnd I believe in the same style of continuity as Mike.ö

For more on the strategic direction Morgan Stanley is taking in Asia, see the April cover story of FinanceAsia magazine, which features a Q&A with John Mack.