One of Morgan Stanley's most senior investment bankers in the region has been hired by a rival in a move expected to focus attention on staff solidarity in light of key departures from its main dealing centres. Merrill Lynch has hired Morgan Stanley managing director Sheldon Trainor to head its investment banking team based in Hong Kong, according to industry sources. The move follows a busy round of job-hopping by bankers and researchers after the annual ritual of bonus payments and highlights the interest that rival firms are showing in bankers at Morgan Stanley. The reasons for Mr Trainor's departure as head of the general industrial group in Asia were not known. Spokespeople for both firms declined to comment. Mr Trainor is recognised as a key mover in Morgan Stanley's successful reopening of the international high-yield bond market for industrial firms in the mainland. This effort ensured above-average fees as firms ranging from Panva Gas Holdings, Sino-Forest, Asia Aluminum Holdings and Titan Petrochemicals Group sold non-investment grade bonds. Last week, the firm oversaw a B-rated issue for unlisted start-up plantation outfit Mandra Forestry. Merrill Lynch has sought to increase its Asian investment banking operations in recent years after a period of losing ground to its global investment bank rivals. A number of top bankers and traders have left Morgan Stanley since the end of March after controversial chief executive Philip Purcell promoted two loyalists to co-president positions. The departures, which include president Stephan Newhouse and head of investment banking Terry Meguid, have so far been confined to the United States and Europe. In Asia, Morgan Stanley avoided the awkward integration of Dean Witter's retail operation following the 1997 merger of the firms. However, one head hunter familiar with Mr Trainor's departure said: 'Everyone knows that [Morgan Stanley's] head office is coming apart and, as a result, their top people in the region are at least talking to the opposition.' The last big departure from the firm came in September last year when Daniel Palmer left to head HSBC Holdings' equity capital markets business in return for a sharp salary increase.