Vincent Duhamel, one of the key senior executives in Goldman Sachs Asset Management (GSAM), has left the firm for what has been described as a major career break.

Duhamel resigned last month, three years after joining GSAM from State Street Global Advisors, where he was CEO for Asia ex-Japan in Hong Kong. Over the past three years, he has helped GSAM to build its asset management business in Asia.

Duhamel joined Goldman Sachs in 2005. Initially, he took an Asia ex-Japan managing director role in Hong Kong. In March 2007, however, Oliver Bolitho û who was then head of the UK institutional business in Europe û moved to Hong Kong to assume the position of head of Asia ex-Japan. At that time, Duhamel took on an additional role of global head of sovereign wealth fund and central bank relationships, which was a new role within the firm.

It is understood GSAM has no plans of replacing Duhamel at this time.

Bolitho will, in effect, take on the responsibilities of Duhamel in his capacity as head of GSAM in the region. This is not to mean, however, that the responsibility of looking after sovereign wealth funds and central banks globally will not be given to someone else in the future, perhaps under a different structure. After all, sovereign wealth funds and central funds are amassing large amounts of foreign reserves and are looking for guidance on how to preserve and expand these assets.

Industry sources say Duhamel was unhappy at GSAM and that led to his departure. GSAM declined to comment. However, it is believed that taking a career break was DuhamelÆs main motivation.

Duhamel, who could not be reached for comment, is spending the next few months in Canada and is not expected to resurface in the asset management industry in the region in a full-time capacity until much later in the year, at the earliest.

Duhamel has helped transform GSAMÆs business in Asia ex-Japan from an almost solely institutional one to one that includes retail lines.

In a previous interview with AsianInvestor, Duhamel spoke about how GSAMÆs business model in Asia was evolving. The first phase of GSAMÆs overall business strategy in the region was selling GoldmanÆs worldwide offshore investment capabilities to Asian institutions, while running pan-Asia investment products for global clients from hubs in Singapore and Hong Kong. Phase two was developing a local manufacturing capability in key markets. The third phase is manufacturing domestic investment products to be sold to domestic clients û in particular the retail sector, where defined-contribution systems are being put in place.

A native of Quebec, Duhamel arrived in Hong Kong in 1996 after building a career in Canada's asset management industry. At that time, State Street Global Advisors was putting together an Asia ex-Japan operation from scratch. State Street got its break amid the fallout of the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis. Hong Kong had survived relatively unscathed from the collapse of the baht and other regional currencies, but in August, 1998, the additional whammies of a Russian default and the destruction of US hedge fund Long-Term Credit Management led to massive speculation against the Hong Kong dollar.

The Hong Kong government under then-financial secretary Donald Tsang made a bold and controversial move in October 1998 to buy shares of Hong Kong companies, in a successful effort to support the currency. Duhamel suggested that launching an exchange-traded fund at a nice discount would be an efficient way to gradually divest those holdings, while giving Hong Kong's public the chance to participate in the market. The Hong Kong Tracker Fund put State Street Global Advisors on the map in Asia ex-Japan, following substantial business growth in Japan and Australia. It was a personal success for Duhamel as well, who quickly went from overseeing a struggling start-up to managing a very large institutional player.