Luke Ellis, president of Man Group, shocked attendees of a Future Finance talk at FundForum International by announcing he "looks forward" to fund managers being replaced by computers.
A recurrent theme at FundForum so far has been the notion of human and machine collaboration
in investment, to create an unbeatable investment proposition.
However, Ellis, president of one of the world’s largest hedge funds, suggests asset management won't need guiding human hands much longer.
"Man Group’s greatest outlay are expensive fund managers, and I look forward to the day they're replaced by computers,” Ellis said to the crowd, at least some of whom he might have described.
“Believing that tech can only do the simple, boring things in investment misses the mark entirely."
Lars Hamberg, head of big data analytics & fund selection at AFAM, a Swedish firm, said that tech is misunderstood and underemployed in the asset management industry. He suggested the failure of embryonic data experiments years ago, such as 'Twitter Hedge Funds', may have disincentivised firms from capitalising on their data today.
"Why is it that big media companies like Google are the frontrunners in behavioural analytics and big data? Banks know everything about their customers. The financial sector has been filing away info on us for years – and yet they do nothing with it,” he said.
Conversely, Samantha Ghiotti, a partner at Anthemis Group, was more circumspect about both robo-advice and big data propositions, saying it was yet to be demonstrated how a widespread embrace of either would be commercially beneficial for firms.
“Both are seen as disruptive forces, but that potential is largely speculative - and it's important to remember success and disruption aren't always synonymous," she said.
"Many of the world's most disruptive ideas never see commercial success – take music sharing website Napster in the early 2000s, for instance. The disruptive concept which addresses the previously unaddressable in a sustainable way will be the truly successful one. In the meantime, we'll keep looking out for developments that don't disrupt, but work as business propositions."
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