FintekNews is pleased to offer our weekly feature column 3 Questions. Each week, we feature a thought leader within a unique sector of fintech and ask them to answer just 3 questions for our audience in their vernacular. This week, we’d like to introduce you to John “Morgan” Slade, CEO of Cloudquant, a cloud based trading strategy incubator that provides quantitative analysts, algorithmic developers, data scientist and traders around the world the opportunity to create and test trading strategies with CloudQuant’s hedge fund-grade infrastructure.
NAME: John “Morgan” Slade
COMPANY: CloudQuant LLC
WEB ADDRESS: CloudQuant.com
What does your firm do/offer within the fintech sector?
CloudQuant is The Trading Strategy Incubator. We provide free institutional-grade reasearch tools and alternative datasets to crowd researchers through our cloud-based microsecond-resolution backtesting platform. We level the playing field for global talent that normally would not have the opportunity to work on wall street. As experienced wall street professionals can attest, as we progress in our careers from firm to firm there is a certain amount of “group think” that takes hold. CloudQuant invites a completely fresh set of players to the table—really anyone with an internet connection. We offer a platform that is no longer limited by a set of well-known strategies and a finite reseach department. The crowd researchers won’t spend years putting their time in and working their way up on wall street, they start on day-one with the same tools and opportunity of a hedge fund portfolio manager or analyst. Our global crowd research team generates alpha at scale using the key innovations of cloud computing, alternative data, artificial intelligence and crowd researchers.
What is your role within your firm and what do you do there on any given day?
Over the last 20 years, I have primarily started new trading or investment businesses in investment banks and large hedge funds. I have also been asked to turn struggling businesses around in this same space. CloudQuant as a project was started by Kershner Trading Group in 2011, but really has its roots further back. CloudQuant is going to be a game changer for institutional investment management industry. Andy Kershner and his team were really prescient in calling out what they thought would happen with the confluence of the four key technology innovations I mentioned earlier. They really positioned it for success by selecting seasoned technology advisors like Continuum Analytics, the proprietor of the wildly popular Anaconda Python Stack, to assist in building a cutting edge microsecond-precision platform. My role is to take the idea into production with the crowd researchers. In addition to growing the team of very talented quants, data scientists and developers we have at CloudQuant, I am responsible for leading our internal quant fund in the Global Systematic Trading unit and our Licensed Product Group, which is dedicated to working with our crowd researchers. As a quantitative trading firm, I have operational responsibilities in compliance, risk management, personnel and financial reporting, but perhaps the most exciting area for me is working in the areas of AI investing, getting my hands dirty with alternative datasets and contributing to the CloudQuant product vision.
What area/s of fintech do you believe will grow the most in the coming 5 years?
I see two transformative technologies in the Financial Industry today: (1) The one which CloudQuant uses which we call ‘crowd-sourced alpha’; and (2) Blockchain. The first is the transformation in investment management and hedge funds due to the confluence of cloud computing, crowd researchers, alternative datasets and artificial intelligence. Traditionally finite research teams of dedicated researchers will give way to more dynamic crowd research pools from virtually every country on the planet. These researchers are smart, ambitious, hard-working, but don’t require visas or to sit physically on a trading desk to contribute to the alpha search process. They will be compensated based on the performance of their ideas at levels that far surpass any other financial opportunity set available to them. The traditional Wall Street approach will continue to exist but will take a sort of relationship to this new approach that is something akin to the Etruscans and the Roman empire. There will continue to be an influence, but the game is changing and becoming more global. Global talent will gain unparalleled access to institutional-grade research tools and institutional capital to disrupt the hedge fund industry as we know it today. New entrants into the Investment Management space will harness previously undiscovered alphas from crowd researchers with little to no historical involvement in the industry. Along with the relatively unlimited pool of technical talent, many of these researcher will begin down the road of utilizing artificial intelligence to automate significant portions of the alpha search process.
The second technology, which admittedly I spent less time thinking about-but am fascinated by—is blockchain. I am excited about the opportunities of distributed ledger technology to fundamentally disrupt the existing financial services ecosystem. We see new applications crop up daily be it from cryptocurrencies, so-called smart contracts to ICOs raising more money than the entire VC industry committed this year. Whether you are an exchange, institutional custodian, local bank, broker-dealer, credit card company, central bank, fx trader, consumer finance company or street vendor I think it is pretty certain your world is going to completely change in the next decade when it comes to how you transact.
Just keep in mind this is a technology revolution, it will have some volatility, uncertainty as to which flavors become most popular, but due to the open sourcing of technology it will ultimately be a fairly democratic process that defines the outcome. We think open source software and projects like OpenAI and Anaconda and of course CloudQuant are great things for the world.
John “Morgan” Slade has over 20 years of experience as a trader, portfolio manager, executive and entrepreneur in the financial services industry. His current role is CEO of FinTech start-up CloudQuant.com, a cloud- based investment strategy research tool and incubator and as Head of Global Systematic Trading, for Kershner Trading Group.