Kim Eng Ong Asia has announced the appointment of three heavy hitters to boost its institutional equities division. Stephen Davies has joined as director and head of institutional equities. Patrick Russell has joined as regional research director. And John Mulcahy has joined as regional strategist.

Davies comes to Kim Eng Ong Asia from ABN AMRO where he ran the firm's Asia desk in London. He was been in Asian equity sales and research for 15 years. He will be based in Singapore.

Russell will develop the firm's regional research product based on regional themes and with an absolute return bias. With 15 years research experience at WI Carr, SG Warburg and the Boston Consulting Group, Russell will be based in Malaysia where he previously ran WI Carr's Malaysian operations.

Mulcahy joins the firm to develop stock focused strategy ideas. He has been a well known part of Asia's strategy universe having worked at Vickers Da Costa, Peregrine, UBS, WI Carr and China Everbright Securities. He will be based in Europe.

The hires are a bold statement of intent from Kim Eng Ong Asia and come at a time when the regional equity business is in the doldrums. However with the local markets all showing signs of recovery in terms of prices and volumes, smaller, more nimble firms are starting to see their cost to income ratios going the right way.

"With a sustained recovery in institutional interest in Asian equities, we feel the time is right to add resources in this area," says Davies. "The investment banking driven model around which most brokers have settled is proving problematic for both customers and regulators alike. We feel that there is and will continue to be a recovery in demand for independent agency broking and research services: customers want and need more of a choice."

Kim Eng Ong Asia is based in Singapore but has offices in nine other countries. It was formed by the merger of Kim Eng Securities and Ong & Co in February this year. With 1200 staff it is already the largest independent stockbroker in Singapore.