Sam Poon is to retire from Merrill Lynch in August after 17 years at the bank and is currently applying to various schools and universities in the US and UK to take a masters degree in education. Poon is a committed Christian and a fervent believer in the need for education reform. "It has always been on my mind to do this and I'm very excited about it," he says.

Poon is one of three co-heads of investment banking for Merrill Lynch in Asia, a post he shares with Erh Fei Liu and KL Wong. His title at present is President and COO of Asia Pacific investment banking

Merrill has also announced a re-organisation of its investment banking team in an internal announcement sent out to staff this morning by Damian Chunilal, head of Pacific Rim investment banking. Erh Fei Liu will become the chairman of Asia Pacific investment banking focusing exclusively on developing Merrill's clients in China. KL Wong becomes head of Asia Pacific investment banking and will focus on all business outside China.

Other appointments include Lewis Lee, who is being promoted to head of Pacific Rim energy and power investment banking. Glendy Chiu becomes Chief Administrative Officer of Pacific Rim investment banking. The moves are the latest in a long series of staff re-organisations at Merrill Lynch in Asia and come three months after Chunilal came to the region to run the pan- Asian business, including Japan and Australia (see relate articles).

Poon's decision to leave the firm comes after a sharp turn around in business that Merrill has enjoyed in the last year. But his ambitions have been satisfied in banking and he feels now is the time to put his skills to use elsewhere.

He says that having been a banker involved in restructuring and privatisation he knows how to introduce market principles into state dominated sectors. "Education is a bit like communism at the moment. There is very little choice and most of the funds come from the state," he comments.

He wants to help put some of what he has learnt into education reform, either in a teaching capacity or in a policy level role.

Poon started life as a calculator salesman for Jardine Matheson and joined Merrill Lynch in London in 1987 having got his MBA from the London Business School. In 1995 he became an MD having worked in the UK for the past seven years. In 1998 he was sent back home to Hong Kong to replace John McNiven as head of DCM.

Now he has the cash and the conviction to do what he wants, he says it is the right time for him to leave banking and move to a different career.