Evan Hale, former managing director for Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore and China at Fidelity International, has emerged from gardening leave to become managing director and head of Fitch Asia-Pacific in Hong Kong.

His appointment ends a 14-month search at Fitch for a replacement to Andrea Mueller who departed in May 2008.

Hale will report to Bernard De Lattre, group managing director at Fitch Ratings based in Paris. Country heads from the 15 offices and 11 countries that Fitch operates in Asia will now report directly to Hale.

These destinations span Bangkok, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, New Delhi, Seoul, Colombo, Taipei, Singapore, Jakarta and a joint venture in Beijing with China Lianhe Credit Rating. Fitch's regional headquarters is split between Hong Kong and Singapore. The firm employs over 500 people in Asia.

This week, Hale kicks off a hectic tour of the group's regional offices to get to grips with their strategies and businesses -- while figuring out a strategy to restore Asian institutional investors' faith in credit-rating agencies.

Hale says he is under a mandate to strengthen brand perception and maintain business growth in the region. He says there are no concrete targets for these businesses at this stage, adding a formal review of the group's strategy will come in due course, when the management is ready and he himself is familiar with the business.

"The entire financial services industry, including rating agencies, is undergoing a lot of scrutiny from additional regulation that is coming into being, from North America to Asia," he says. It is important for the firm to maintain high-quality research despite all of these business and legal distractions.

Hale worked at Fidelity for over a decade. A native of Canada, he helped start operations in India and made his mark running Fidelity's Korea business, transforming a $60 million rep office into a $7.5 billion operation. In 2006 he transferred to Hong Kong to head up Hong Kong, Singapore, China and Korea. This hodge-podge then led to a new role as head of private-bank distribution for the region, a job created when Chris Ryan was appointed Asia managing director.

When Hale quit last year, Fidelity recruited Kerry Ching from UBS Global Asset Management to head up private-bank distribution, a role similar to the one she pursued at UBS, where she had been in charge of managing one client, the in-house private bank.