J.P. Morgan's ex-chief data scientist didn't stay long at Cerberus then

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Afsheen Afshar

Last time we referenced Afsheen Afshar, the former head of data science at J.P. Morgan's corporate and investment bank, we said he was doing something rather interesting over at private equity fund Cerberus Capital Management. This no longer the case: after less than a year with the fund, insiders say Afshar is with Cerberus no more.

The reasons for Afshar's premature exit are not clear: neither he nor Cerberus responded to a request to comment for this article. What we do know, however, is that Cerberus has hired in a whole new data person in the form of Benjamin F. Sylvester III, another former J.P. Morgan technologist. Sylvester turned up at Cerberus this month. Insiders suggest Afshar was "long gone" by the time of his arrival.

Afshar's resume is big on brand names. A Stanford and Princeton graduate with a specialism in 'neural prostheses', he spent five years at Goldman Sachs, before moving to J.P. Morgan and then to Cerberus in November 2017.

Last time we looked, Afshar was busy at Cerberus, building what he described as, a 'full-scale front-to-back data and advanced analytics capability that can be leveraged by all businesses and portfolio companies touched by the entire firm.'  At the time he was recruited, Cerberus said Afshar would both be building a new data science platform and assembling, "a team of world-class technologists." He subsequently hired Jason Gilbertson, Stanford University data mining and statistics graduate, who joined in April 2018.

Afshar exit comes as Cerberus is stocking up on ex-J.P. Morgan data talent. Matt Zames, the former chief operating officer of J.P. Morgan, was named president of Cerberus in April 2018. Len Laufer, the former head of J.P. Morgan's intelligent solutions team joined the fund earlier this year, and may well have been behind the arrival of Ben Sylvester. Sylvester has both a trading and a technology background. He joined J.P. Morgan in 2008, originally as head of U.S. equities trading at J.P. Morgan Asset Management. In 2013, he became head of platform strategy and development at JPM Asset Management. And in 2015 he became head of corporate and investment bank and asset management solutions. Sylvester left JPM this July.

As we reported earlier this year, J.P.Morgan has been losing machine learning talent ever since disbanding its intelligent solutions team. Not everyone has gone to Cerberus: Graham Giller, went to Deutsche Bank in March, David Fellah, went to fintech firm ITG in London in April, and Rajesh Krishnamachari left for Bank of America Merrill Lynch in the same month.

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