After three years as head of Merrill LynchÆs Asian equities and trading business, Paul Masi is returning to his native Sydney to run the bankÆs Australian operations. His new title is country head and CEO.

Masi is replacing Kevin Skelton who steps aside to focus on deals as chairman of investment banking for the Sydney office. SkeltonÆs strengths are in the financial institutions sector, and he is keen to spend more time interacting with clients, says a Merrills spokesperson.

Masi joined Merrill Lynch in Australia in 2000 and was previously country co-head and head of Australasian equities before moving to Hong Kong in 2003.

He remains a member of MerrillsÆ Asia-Pacific region executive committee. He also becomes chairman of the Australia executive committee.

The bank says his equities replacement in Hong Kong will be announced shortly.