THE man who founded and took Baring Securities to the peak of success in investment banking in Southeast Asia - before a younger man called Nick Leeson buried it - is back in business. After a compulsory sabbatical following his departure from Barings in early 1993, Christopher Heath now aims to repeat the performance, but this time for himself and a selected number of powerful shareholders. He is already searching out an Asian headquarters, and has been looking closely at Hong Kong, although he also is considering directing at least some of his operation at Singapore. He has called the venture Caspian, which is a sea in central Asia, and also a neutral name, but the geographical spread of the group will be global and very much into emerging markets. He expects the initial thrust will be in Latin America, but Asia will follow swiftly and he is on the prowl for top-flight analysts, salesmen and investment bankers in the region. His return to Asia will be watched carefully by established rivals, as well as by expanding firms such as Peregrine, and newcomers such as NatWest Wheelock. By recognising the untapped potential in Japan, Mr Heath as chairman unleashed an income stream which built Baring Securities into a major regional player. At its peak, it employed almost 1,400 people in 21 offices in 19 countries. As well as broking, Mr Heath is planning corporate finance deals, offering services to companies a little too small to attract the attention of the big names. Caspian already has an Asian partner, investment bank National Finance from Thailand. In Britain, Equitable Life, Caledonia Investments and Scottish Eastern Investments have put money in Caspian. The group has initial capitalisation of US$50 million, with a further $200 million standing by. 'There are other investors, including some pretty big funds, but they prefer to remain anonymous,' said Mr Heath, who plans to boost airline profits considerably by commuting from his London headquarters to Hong Kong and the Americas. Mr Heath once grabbed headlines in Britain when his bonus and other payouts from Barings made him the highest paid man in the country. That was when Baring Securities was opening offices almost monthly, and had the highest-rated research in the region. From his suite at the Mandarin Oriental hotel last week, Mr Heath said his new venture also would stress research, and opportunities he believed were really just opening up in regional emerging markets. In an industry which is swiftly being populated by boutique operations, many of them started by disillusioned former executives of heavyweight investment banks, Mr Heath says one of his edges will be technology. Information technology systems for Caspian have been designed with the help of Andersen Consulting, Hewlett-Packard and British Telecom. 'More established companies are having to redesign old systems, and sometimes it can't be done. We have a purpose-built operation,' said Mr Heath. It is designed to be a seamless global system, covering trading, clearing and settlement as well as in-house communications and even research delivery - but details remain firmly up his sleeve. Mr Heath would not comment on-the-record on the events which saw the company he built up having to be rescued after the futures debacle in Singapore. But he left no doubt management safeguards upon which he insisted would not have allowed such a disaster.