Goldman's Ram Sundaram Talks Trading, Da Vinci and Mental HealthBy
Sundaram is co-chair of the Child Mind Institute with Neidich
Artificial intelligence ‘not a good or a bad thing,’ he says
Ram Sundaram received a warm introduction at the Child Mind Institute’s annual benefit Monday night.
“This is the man I love,” Brooke Garber Neidich said of her co-chair at the nonprofit as guests filed into Cipriani 42nd Street. On one side of the room was a Bloomingdale’s teddy bear being sold to benefit the New York-based institute. On the other was Ali Wentworth, George Stephanopoulos and Ruth Westheimer.
Neidich met Sundaram in 2008, the year he made partner at Goldman Sachs. They quickly discovered a shared passion for children’s mental health, born from helping their own sons.
“Parents tend to blame themselves,” said Sundaram, who runs structured-credit trading at Goldman. “A lot,” Neidich added.
With their children thriving, both have worked to ensure that other parents and children have the Child Mind Institute as a resource for education, support and treatment options.
Celebrities can help. Child Mind Institute has a Speak Up for Kids campaign each May, in which Reese Witherspoon and Emma Stone have appeared in a video. Selena Gomez, who has lupus, was at a benefit for the Lupus Research Alliance benefit on Monday. Ashley Judd told of coping with depression at a fundraiser for the Hope for Depression Research Foundation earlier this month.
Sundaram envisions something with lasting results, like the Jimmy Fund at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, though it’s hard to get too hands-on. “I have a full time job at Goldman, so the amount of time I can dedicate has been limited compared to what I would like to do,” he said.
One work matter occupying him is a recent slump in trading revenue. “To some extent it’s markets,” Sundaram said. There are, however, some things the firm can do more of, he said. “We think there’s still a lot of growth in emerging markets: Latin America, Eastern Europe, East Africa, we will pick our spots there. We’ve been increasing revenue steadily in those areas.”
A change Sundaram sounds like he’s already adjusted to is the rise of machine learning. He said he’s a believer in Ray Kurzweil’s prediction that singularity will arrive by 2045. “It’s going to be a policy issue,” Sundaram said. “The low-end jobs, we have already started losing. The high-end jobs are going just as fast.”
Computers do the bulk of exchange trading and an artificial intelligence program is doing the work of lawyers. “It’s not a good or a bad thing,” Sundaram said. “You have to go with it.” Would a computer have thought of a collateralized debt obligation? “Who knows in 30 years.”
An avid reader, Sundaram’s favorite book of the year is “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari, and he gave a copy to Steve Scherr. He’s also found some inspiration for his advocacy on mental health issues in Walter Isaacson’s biography of Leonardo Da Vinci, whose “Salvator Mundi” painting went for $450 million at auction last week.
“He talks about how this guy, if he’d been born in our time, would probably be on meds," Sundaram said. “His genius was his unbelievable ADD, being able to think about all of these different things at the same time.”
The lesson: “We should celebrate our differences,” Sundaram said. “Instead of being in denial, you can do something amazing.” The key is knowing, “There’s a lot of help available. You are not alone. You have to have hope everything is going to be fine.”