One of Goldman's newest MDs quit for a driverless car company

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Matthew Westwood Goldman Sachs

Six months isn't long to spend as a managing director at Goldman Sachs, but for one new Goldman MD it seems to have been sufficient: James Westwood, the former MD in charge of hedge fund sales for Hong Kong and Singapore at GS, resigned last week to become CIO of Ascent Robotics, an artificial intelligence company creating self-driving vehicles.

Westwood, who was based in Hong Kong, declined to comment for this article, but his departure is understood to have caused ripples at GS where he was a popular member of the hedge fund sales team.

A graduate of Trinity College Dublin, Westwood spent his entire career at Goldman after joining the firm in 2007. He spent four years in London before moving to Hong Kong, and was promoted to MD in Goldman's November 2017 promotion round, along with 508 other people. Despite spending a decade climbing the Goldman ladder, Westwood has clearly decided that driverless cars are a more interesting prospect.

Tokyo-based Ascent Robotics says it focuses on, "machine learning including but not limited to deep neural models, reinforcement learning algorithms and biologically inspired models." Last month, the company raised $10m in a funding round led by SBI Investment Co. The cash injection is being used to develop a virtual simulation environment, 'Atlas', that will train Ascent's machine learning programmes before cars are released onto real roads. Using Atlas, Bloomberg says Ascent can accelerate learning by operating multiple vehicles simultaneously and speeding the internal clock up twenty times.

Westwood's exit comes after Goldman suffered a series of departures from its London macro trading team. The firm is understood to have pruned its January bonuses after a challenging 2017. In a presentation last September, then co-COO Harvey Schwartz said that in future Goldman will focus more heavily on corporate clients, long only asset managers and other banks. Hedge fund clients - Westwood's forte - are no longer in vogue.

Goldman's 2017 MD class was its largest ever. The unprecedented number of promotions was seen at the time as an effort to retain key staff by offering bigger job titles. In Westwood's case, at least, this doesn't seem to have worked.

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