The Belgian-born banker, who has been an integral part of the firm's equities ramp-up in the region over the past five to six years, is to move into the derivatives field. His departure, which will coincide with his marriage later this summer, leaves Mark Machin and John Daly as the two remaining co-heads. Both report to Mike Ryan, the bank's Tokyo-based head, who has overseen the entire region including Australia and Japan since January 2000.

In London, De Lathauwer will join three other managing directors in equity derivatives and will personally oversee structured products. In Asia, his main expertise has been in the tech sector, most recently leading the last major Chinese IPO for Travelsky Technology in January.

He first came to the region in 1994, working in Hong Kong for a year and then moving to Singapore to head up Southeast Asian equity sales and trading. With the departure of ECM head Steven Wisch in 1998, De Lathauwer moved back to Hong Kong and has been credited with building up a team that sent the firm back up to the top of the equity league tables during 2000.

"When I came on board ECM in 1998, everyone said how lucky I was because the markets were tough and it would give me some time to learn the business," he recalls. "But it was amazing how quickly business picked up and I had to dive straight in."

He uses the analogy to dismiss reports that Goldman is planning to retrench in the face of a slowdown in its huge fee-generating home market. "I believe the Asian business is set to grow very fast, but there is no doubt that it's also very cyclical and a downturn has to be managed carefully," he states. "We all need to be cautious and watch expenses, but talk of widescale retrenchment is ridiculous. When the upturn comes, it's important to be there in strength and we will be."

He also reiterates that the relocation of John Daly from New York to Hong Kong and recent promotion of Mark Machin is evidence enough of the firm's intentions. Daly came to Hong Kong in January and is a utilities expert, having spent eight years in New York, most latterly as Energy and Power Sector Captain. Machin, who became a managing director late last year, is a privatization expert and also holds the unofficial title of co-head of the global privatization group.

De Lathauwer himself has been at Goldman since finishing his MBA in 1990 and spent his first five years working in London where he now returns.