They say bad news comes in threes and so it would seem at ING. In one week it has lost its heads of research in Hong Kong, and Taiwan, as well as its regional head of power and utility research.

Merrill Lynch has hired Weimin Chang to head up its research team in Taiwan from the Dutch firm where he held the same role.

JPMorgan meanwhile has further bulked up it equities effort, by hiring Xen Gladstone, formerly head of ING's Hong Kong research team and Bill Laukka who ran power and utility research. After seeing a significant outflow of research staff last year, maybe as many as 15, ING may need to recruit next quarter.

There seems to be change in the air in Taiwan with this news coming close on the heels of yesterday's announcement that Ken Chan was jumping ship from CLSA to Deutsche as head of research. The investment banks certainly seem to be focusing on building their franchises in Taiwan, which may be fuelled by the forecasts of economic upturn in the Taiwanese economy.

The ability of Merrill Lynch and Deutsche to attract these hires through lateral moves serves to add further credence to the concept (referred to in FinanceAsia's March issue) of the 'Super Eight' banks in Asia coming to dominant the broking industry - with these two being among the top group.

It is also interesting to see Merrill Lynch hiring again after a spate of redundancies at the end of 2001.