Lehman Brothers has revealed plans to build its prime broking presence in Singapore. Senior vice-president Dan McNicholas will head sales there, reporting to Rob Laible, head of prime brokerage sales, Asia, who is based in Hong Kong. He will also supervise the other non-sales prime broking staff in Singapore. Lehman joins a roster of other top prime brokerages that have allocated resources to Singapore.

Lehman has a long history in Singapore, and has been present there since 1980, having been headed by such erstwhile Lehman notables as the tag team of Seck Wai Kwong and Tom Picard. The firm's office is now headed by Jai Rajpal, who spent over a decade with Deutsche Bank before joining Lehman Brothers last year.

Singapore is rapidly evolving into a trading hub for Lehman in Asia-Pacific, and has emerged as its centre for foreign exchange and commodities.

Also, Lehman is building prime brokerage in Hong Kong, and the confirmed market gossip is that Mia Bourgeois will join Lehman from her sales role in UBS. More Hong Kong prime brokerage hires are expected to be officially announced shortly.

ôA week is a long time in politics,ö as British Prime Minister Harold Wilson put it. The same applies to banking. One week ago, Bear Stearns had been swept over the abyss, and Lehman Brothers looked like it might be next to be flushed away.

One canny Hong Kong investor, who was already long on Lehman stock, told AsianInvestor just hours before the earnings announcement last week about how its leadership can make a difference.

ôThe biggest threat to Lehman, I think, is the threat of Dick Fuld [who is 61-years-old] taking a hike or retiring. Dick is smart, aggressive, and cares about Lehman more than anything else, I think he will pull the firm out of the mire and resurrect it," he says. "Were I not already so long Lehman, I would buy more at this moment.ö

His words of wisdom and faith in the Lehman commander-in-chief turned out to be true. Dick Fuld has an iconic presence in Lehman Brothers Asia, and in Hong Kong his talismanic profile gazes over the staff from his autographed photograph in the office of Lehman Hong Kong country head Kirk Sweeney.

Not only did the US Federal Reserve's overtures to broker/dealers alleviate the situation, but Lehman beat consensus earnings, helped by diverse earning streams and $600 million of write-backs to Lehman liabilities trading below par.

The market liked the results and Lehman recoiled from the abyss. Not everyone was so enthusiastic. Brad Hintz, the former Lehman CFO and now a bank analyst at Sanford Bernstein, pointed at Lehman's high level of leverage and said he felt earnings were weak.

It was almost exactly 10 years ago that Lehman experienced choppy seas around the time of the collapse of Long Term Capital Management. Also in the Singaporean annals of Lehman history at exactly the same time in May 1998, Lehman Singapore had its finest hour when it helped to rescue Lehman personnel stranded in Indonesia, as Jakarta burned in the riots that overthrew President Suharto.

The mission to save marooned Lehman staff such as Ed Papantonio and Jesse Bhattal from the flames and hysterical mobs was masterminded by Paul Cuthbert-Brown, who now runs the hedge fund Creo Capital in Singapore. The rescue was partially financed by Ravi Sarathy who is now at IRG, (and, who to this day complains that he never got his cash advance for air tickets repaid).