UBS loses prime brokerage head

Richard Johnston resigns.

Richard Johnston, head of Asia Pacific equity finance at UBS, has just resigned after 11 years with the firm in Asia. Johnston plans to enjoy a few months of holiday and adventure after which he may consider rejoining the hedge fund industry, although he expects that this will not be on the sales side.

"Be nice to me," says Johnston in an internal farewell memo to his UBS colleagues, "I may reappear as your client one day."

UBS is expected to announce Johnston's successor next week. Johnston predicts the firm will fill the position internally, although he declined to comment on who the likely candidate would be. Competitors say Johnston's departure is a serious blow to the firm's regional PB ambitions. They point out there is no obvious internal candidate from Asia to fill Johnston's shoes, although some mention Andrew Sinclair, who has played a senior role in marketing the firm's prime brokerage business in the region.

Others speculate the firm may transfer someone from its London office to fill the role.

Johnston says he will stay on at UBS till April 5 to help ensure a smooth transition. Johnston has spent the past six years with UBS in Hong Kong, prior to which he spent five years with the firm in Singapore. He has previously been in charge of the firm's Asian proprietary trading desk as well as its convertible arbitrage desk.

Johnston swapped roles to head of equity finance about three years ago to spearhead the bank's prime brokerage business in the region. Under his stewardship UBS have seen its regional prime brokerage accounts grow from nil to 40.

In a space traditionally dominated by Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, UBS has recently attracted attention for winning a number of mandates from macro fund managers.