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25 years of QuantMinds

We look back on QuantMinds International 2018, which brought together global quant experts from banks, buy-side, regulators, Silicon Valley and academia.

This year Global Derivatives, Trading & Risk Management underwent a long overdue face lift as it celebrated its Silver jubilee in Lisbon under the new name of QuantMinds. The rebrand was an acknowledgement of the breadth of topics and fields that quants are now addressing and moving into 10 years on from the financial crisis. One of the most telling signs of this evolution is the significant amount of work presented on Machine Learning applications, which have so noticeably come on since the last meeting.

Over the last couple of years, we have dedicated time to building up two distinct communities in the quant space which we see as the key areas reflecting growth for quants going forwards. These communities are segmented into two focus days called the Quant Invest Summit and the Quant Tech summit, which took place during the Monday of the conference.

The Quant Tech Summit this year brought together cutting edge expertise on future tech and AI developments applicable to the quant role and included representatives from Google, the NASA Ames Research Centre, banks, buy-side and start-ups. We learnt about industry applications of blockchain, breakthroughs in Machine Learning in practice and a first industry case study, from Standard Charted, on the application of Quantum Computing in finance – a collaboration that was inspired by, and struck up at, last year’s conference. These themes were built on during our plenary panel discussion the next day which opened up varied opinions on what finance can learn from scientific applications of big data, Machine Learning and supercomputing.

The Quant Invest Summit was a gathering of investment quants, portfolio managers and CIOs to discuss the latest quantitative breakthroughs on the buy-side. Key debates between BlackRock, Standard Life Aberdeen, Goldman Sachs, BAML and many more took place on themes including the best approach for systematic investing, techniques for alpha generation and whether smart beta strategies will eclipse active management. A notable highlight from the buy-side community was Stefano Pasquali, Managing Director, Scientific Active Equities at BlackRock who delivered a keynote presentation to a packed room on the topic of a practitioner’s view of machine learning: myth vs reality.

The QuantMinds main conference covered three days and brought together the latest research and industry results from global experts across the full spectrum of quant finance. Highlights included volatility modelling & trading, option pricing, algo & e-trading, central clearing, computational breakthroughs, XVAs and much more. These presentations and discussions were bookmarked by full day workshops that allowed quants with a range of experience to heighten their skills in fundamental quantitative disciplines such as volatility modelling, modern option pricing, AAD and FRTB.

This year, in addition to the fantastic line-up of quant speakers, we included two prominent out of the industry speakers who were hugely popular. The first was the behavioural economist, Gerd Gigerenzer, who spoke of simple heuristics that make us smart – a way of thinking that set up interesting debates with segments of the audience who by contrast have dedicated careers to developing complex models. The upshot was an agreement that heuristics can coexists and indeed be incorporated effectively into quant finance.

The second speaker who got the audience thinking differently was the ethical hacker Freakyclown (or FC for short). FC opened our eyes to real world techniques and experiences for robbing banks both physically and digitally. The session provided advice for how to be safer and more aware in a world of increasing threats.

Overall another fantastic turnout for the conference with some exciting new ideas and directions from a community with the skills, aptitude and know-how to continue adapting. We look forward to more insight and discussion at QuantMinds Americas in Boston this September.

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