#alphascope2015

With a view to combine the industry-leading investment management presentations with engaged industry network, the first ever alphascope event took place in Geneva from 3 - 5 February 2015. alphascope Conference Director Eleanor Bates looks back on the three days of presentations, networking and meetings and shares with us her personal highlights.

Eleanor BatesWhilst not professing to be any kind of expert in the intricacies of quantitative investment management, I certainly felt that I got a lot out of αlphascope 2015 at the InterContinental in Geneva at the start of February. Most importantly, I got a great idea of what worked well and what I’ll be repeating for future events, which, as the event director, constitutes a very productive week in my opinion.

Here’s a run-down of my personal highlights from alphascope 2015.

 

Highlight #1: The Chicks Rule

I’ll admit, I was never expecting a conference devoted to quant investing to be a gathering for ‘Girl Power’ and the women amongst the attendees were few and far between, but the ones who were there packed a real punch! Moreover, where they really excelled were in some of the most technical subjects: artificial intelligence and machine learning.

The keynote debate ‘Man vs Machine’ somewhat ironically became ‘Man vs Woman’, with AHL’s Matthew Sargaison and Nils Beitlich of UBS representing ‘Man’ and Alicia Vidler, CASTILLIUM CAPITAL and Sonia Schulenburg, SCHULENBURG CAPITAL taking the side of the ‘Machine’. In the end, neither side came out on top, agreeing that machines, with the guidance of a ‘well-programmed man’ were ultimately the real alpha drivers. (I may try and adopt a similar approach when it comes to leaving my husband in charge of the laundry.)

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The panel discussion on Man vs Machine posed exactly the questions I then addressed about the human/technical dynamic in cyber space and how analogue humans need to control the developments in the digital world… And judging by the feedback, the attendees found it stimulating and relevant.

Major General Jonathan Shaw, Former British MoD & Cyber Security Expert

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Highlight #2: No-one Is Too Brainy To Speed Network

The idea of αlphascope was to combine the most innovative thought in this scientific field of investment management with engaged industry networking. Being a brand new event, and something of a brand new concept for us, I was not sure how this would work out. Would quants take to such ‘animated’ structured networking formats as speed networking, manager showcases and Too Hot To Touch boardroom discussions? It seems they do.

Speed networking: investment managers on the outside of a square, investors on the inside. 90 seconds to exchange a handshake, a business card and a quick introduction; whistle blows and you move on; managers take a step to your left, investors stay where you are…  Whilst it did take a couple of rounds to get everyone choreographed, once it was in full flow, the business cards were flying! At one point we even ended up with a surplus of investors, looking for managers to meet…

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I made more contacts at this conference than any other!

Sébastien Bossu, Principal, OGEE GROUP

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Highlight #3: Prove Your Worth

Tuesday 3rd February was a separately-bookable day, with many attendees taking the opportunity to participate in ‘The Investor Day’, discussing subject matters closes to the hearts of investors. Within this focussed group, some really ‘meaty’ subjects came to light, especially during the final session of the day ‘Too Hot To Touch – The True Value Of Quant’.

The session was run under the Chatham House rule, according to which nothing which is said during the session may be attributed to any individual. Sat as I was, a fly on the wall, I benefitted from hearing investors and managers debate as to what the real value of quant strategies were and, even more controversially, what they are worth from a fee perspective. Discretionary managers, it was said, are paid for their skill in picking a good money management ‘story’. Do systematic managers, ‘blindly’ following trends, have a similar story of worth?*

*Disclaimer: your humble correspondent does not mean, by this question, to give any opinion of her own on the subject, but merely reports it for the entertainment and interest of the reader.

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αlphascope allowed for a frank and open discussion of controversial and topical issues ranging from high frequency trading to smart beta and a wide variety of quantitative investment management techniques.

Hamlin Lovell, Contributing Editor, THE HEDGE FUND JOURNAL & Head Research, TOMLINSON RESEARCH

 

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Highlight #4: We’ve Reached The Frontier

As a (relatively) uninformed outsider at this gathering of quantitative investment brains, it was an absolute privilege to have the opportunity to hear about what is being done at the fascinating forefront of investment science. From the latest research in artificial intelligence, to volatility trading and the very smartest of beta: it was exciting to know you were sat amongst some of the real innovators of the space.

On that note, I shall close my meanderings and leave you with some final thoughts from two of the highly esteemed academic speakers who we were pleased to welcome at αlphascope…..

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I enjoyed the conference very much. It was an exciting introduction into the many developing frontiers of quantitative trading. Nice to see the results of effort in these matters.

Dilip Madan, Professor Of Finance Robert H Smith, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND

 

 

 

A very stimulating event, with a nice combination of high-level frontier academic and professional research together with focus on the crucial investment questions.

Didier Sornette, Professor, Chair Of Entrepreneurial Risks, ETH ZURICH

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Follow Eleanor on twitter @EllieLaverty or @alphascope_icbi. To keep up to date with all the latest updates on future events, keep checking www.alphascope-event.com