Nick Toovey has left Merrill Lynch to join ING Investment Management in Hong Kong as regional head of equities for Asia Pacific. He has just joined ING and reports to Chris Ryan, regional CEO.

The hire is the result of a region-wide search to replace and upgrade the equities position vacated in February by Didier Devresse, who had transferred from Singapore to take over the Japan CEO role.

Toovey's role has been upgraded to be responsible for the entire region and 12 offices, says Ryan. Previously, the equities function had been managed both in Sydney and in Singapore. Since last year's acquisition of Aetna, which had a sizeable asset base in Hong Kong, the firm has been in the process of consolidating management there, a trend affirmed by Ryan's appointment as CEO for Asia Pacific.

Toovey will work alongside Timothy Matson, who is responsible for fixed income and the firm's proprietary investments, another function that moved to Hong Kong from Australia early this year. ING manages roughly $40 billion in Asia, Australia and Japan, of which about $12 billion is in equities.

Toovey has moved to Hong Kong from Singapore, where he had been managing director at COO (and previously CIO) at Merrill. He entered Merrill via its acquisition of Mercury Asset Management, where he had served in London since 1988, and managing Asian equities since 1997.