Merrill Lynch is expanding its prime broking capabilities in Asia and Japan to include futures and fixed income. Until now its PB unit was limited to equity financing. Melvyn Ford, the Hong Kong-based managing director who has run the equity-financing desk, will be responsible for these new functions.

ôAs we further expand, it makes sense to combine these two functions now as the core services offered by each are so similar,ö says Ford in Hong Kong. ôHedge funds with sophisticated strategies donÆt discriminate regarding what capital structures they take positions in. The industry has converged and our offering needs to be seamless across asset classes.ö

He will henceforth be reporting to Tom Callahan and Jeff Penney, global co-heads of marketing and financing services in New York. Given the added responsibilities, Ford says the firm needs to grow the regional team and is in hiring mode.

Meanwhile, operations heavyweight Ron Savino has joined Merrill Lynch in Hong Kong to support the build-out as COO and director for Asian prime brokerage. He has a long career in back offices, having served as COO at ING wholesale banking in Seoul and most recently as a consultant contracted to Goldman Sachs in Hong Kong.

ôRon has a wealth of experience and we need to make this appointment now in order to support our product development, project management, information technology and infrastructure,ö says Ford.

Savino will report functionally to John Thurlow, COO of global equity financing and services in New York, and Peter Graham, COO for Pacific Rim global markets and investment banking in Tokyo.