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Futurist Keynote, Frankfurt: The Future of Automated Trading, Battle of the Quants



Algorithmic trading has existed for decades but in the past five years it’s undergone a revolution thanks to new advances in AI and data science.


As you fly into Frankfurt Airport you’re reminded of the German’s love of efficiency, technology, and bold, but functional architecture. Just like the German cars that still roll off the production lines not far from here it feels like everything has been scrutinised by an engineer whose job it is to identify and weed out inefficiencies, and as the Germans race to embrace autonomous vehicles, Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things Frankfurt almost felt like a second home.


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This time round I was in Frankfurt because of the kind invitation from Bartt Kellermann, CEO of Global Capital Acquisition and the founder of the Battle of the Quants, a global event that skips between Frankfurt, London and New York, that focuses on the role of quantitative trading, or in layman’s speak algorithmic and high frequency trading, in the financial services industry.


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I first met Bartt in London as he was passing through on his way to the continent. In the early days, Bartt told me, no one really knew what quant traders were, as with most new technologies and methodologies they take time to emerge and establish themselves, so as you can imagine in the early years Bartt, who lives in New York, found it a challenge to get people to attend.

Ten years down the line though and the queues are out of the door and the frenzy to attend his events is only fuelled further by the fact that quant traders are convincingly and consistently smashing their human equivalents on Wall Street. Now no one can imagine doing business on Wall Street without using some form of quant trading system, and Bartt is at the heart of it all.


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How times change. Ha, puny humans.

Before we met in London, and on the back of my presentation at Innovation Enterprise, Bartt had asked me to be the keynote for his upcoming event, this one, to talk about the future of hedge funds in a hyperconnected world, and I was delighted to accept.

The event was held at the Museum Angewandte Kunst, a modern art museum on the banks of the Rhine River and was covered by Handelsblatt Global, the financial Times of Germany, who interviewed me before the event went live for their “Battle for a Trading Edge” article which, among other things, covered the rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in trading and its new role in helping organisations make money.

Like any other trading and investment methodology quantitative trading relies on three core areas – the ability to ingest large, and varied sources of information, the ability to analyse it, and the ability to act on the output, and that’s where I came in. It was my role to lift the lid on the evolution and future of AI, and shine a light on the explosion of new data sources – from global satellite networks and persistent surveillance systems through to the proliferation of sensors in everything from nanobots in our bloodstreams to the rise of the Internet of Things, and way, way beyond.


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That was the plan anyway, and while we still covered those topics, ironically, just before my keynote the dumbest piece of technology in the room, the projector, decided to go on strike and blue screen itself, and after the technicians spent ten minutes trying to fix it the only option I had was to go off road and ad lib.

Personally I think ad libbing, particularly when you’re talking about the future is great, and over the next hour, the audience and I covered topics as varied as how we’re now able to upload knowledge to our brains using nothing more than telepathic interfaces, the automation of data scientists, and what else but Terminator robots.

Quants guys and gals are a crazy and excitable bunch and I loved it and, apparently, so did they, so who needs a projector anyway?

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