Having requested a leave of absence, Salomon Smith Barney has given Ferguson some months off, letting one of Asia's most mobile and hard working bankers vacate Cathay Pacific seat 14K and take a well-earned break.

Speculation that Ferguson was to join another firm, resign once stock options vest, or retire (again) has been rife for the past couple of weeks. The banker himself, however, will remain under contract at Salomon and is committed to return (probably to Asia) after a global grand tour which will see him hit the polo fields of Argentina, attend a 20-year high school reunion in the US and wrestle with the bulls of Pamplona rather than the bear markets of Asia.

Ferguson has been planning to take a sabbatical for a while and leaves behind a team of senior bankers in Asian equity capital markets including fellow Scott Kirsty Mactaggart, recently promoted to managing director and Willy Liu, currently head of Greater China and also an MD. A new head will not be appointed immediately.

Prior to SSB, Ferguson was global co-head of equity-linked markets at Goldman Sachs in London before retiring at the tender age of 32. Having rapidly missed the cut and thrust of the markets, he was tempted back by fellow ex-Goldmanite, Sanjiv Misra, who hired him as his own replacement when he was promoted from head of ECM to head of investment banking at Salomon in 1998.

Ferguson is considered one of the most forthright bankers working in ECM and also one of the most down-to-earth. He will leave at the end of April and plans to return early next year.