Sydney-based Paul Thomas is the latest addition to Merrill Lynch's aggressively expanding prime brokerage team in Asia. Thomas joins as vice president and head of Australian prime brokerage sales, reporting to regional prime-brokerage sales head Harvey Twomey in Hong Kong. He will be responsible for the overall client relationship, sales and marketing effort for Merrill's prime brokerage product in Australia.

"Paul is highly regarded by the hedge fund community in Australia and brings a strong skill set to the business. We're delighted to have him on board," says Twomey.

Merrill stole Thomas from UBS' Australian prime brokerage team where he was an account manager. The UBS PB team, led by David Gray, has been the only investment bank to operate a full service prime brokerage business located in Australia. With the appointment of Thomas, Merrill becomes one of the few prime brokers to have a sales person on the ground in Australia. In addition Merrill currently has three traders on its stock loan desk based in Sydney.

Melvyn Ford, head of Merrill's Pacific Rim equity finance, says the new appointment is a strategic decision. "Paul's appointment further strengthens our platform in the Australian market and reflects our confidence in the continued growth of the hedge fund industry in that part of the world," says Ford. He adds that Merrill has significant mandates from the Australian region and sees a pipeline of high-quality hedge fund launches from Australia in the coming year. "In addition to Australian focused strategies, we see a number of Asian- and global-focused funds choosing to set up in Sydney."