The Massive Hedge Fund Betting on AI
Initially wary of the technology, Man Group was soon persuaded by the returns from algorithm-centric funds.
As chief executive officer of one of the world’s largest hedge funds, Luke Ellis prides himself on a healthy appetite for risk. “My job,” he says, “is to not blink.” About five years ago, he did, though—in a big way. What spooked him was an experiment at his firm, Man Group Plc. Engineers at the company’s technology-centric AHL unit had been dabbling with artificial intelligence—a buzzy, albeit not widely used, technology at the time. The system they built evolved autonomously, finding moneymaking strategies humans had missed. The results were startlingly good, and now Ellis and fellow executives needed to figure out their next move.
Man Group, which has about $96 billion under management, typically takes its most promising ideas from testing to trading real money within weeks. In the fast-moving world of modern finance, an edge today can be gone tomorrow. The catch here was that, even as the new software produced encouraging returns in simulations, the engineers couldn’t explain why the AI was executing the trades it was making. The creation was such a black box that even its creators didn’t fully understand how it worked. That gave Ellis pause. He’s not an engineer and wasn’t intimately involved in the technology’s creation, but he instinctively knew that one explanation—“I can’t tell you why …”—would never fly with big clients looking for answers when Man inevitably lost some of their money.
Read more on Bloomberg here.