Interview: Rob Sloan, Research Director, WSJ Pro


What can be done about the talent war in AI and machine learning and how do you handle this in your organisation?

At the heart of all technological progress is human expertise, passion and innovation. In order for artificial intelligence algorithms to change the way investments are made, businesses need to engage bright minds who understand the problem they are trying to solve and the business they are trying to solve it for. High salaries will get an employer only so far; companies will have to do more to attract and retain top talent and create a culture which appeals to individuals with critical skillsets, but who may not fit the ‘traditional’ mould of the organization. Encouraging diversity and importantly, neuro-diversity, will be a key step towards success. 


Cloud computing has been widely adopted in most sectors except financial services.  Is this now changing, and if so how will funds decide how and where to include external providers?

We often forget that the financial services sector has a very long tail. For every global retail or investment bank, there are hundreds of smaller regional institutions that have neither the budgets nor the technical resources to deliver cutting-edge security. For the majority of these organizations cloud computing is not simply the best option, it is the only option. Cloud services allow financial services organizations to concentrate on their core mission and deliver secure, reliable IT applications and connectivity to staff and customers. The question is no longer ‘can we afford to use cloud services?’, but rather ‘can we afford not to?’.


If you look 3 years into the future, what do you consider will be the biggest changes to the way hedge funds will use technology to generate alpha?

In the near-future, hedge funds will need to blend the unbiased, data-driven trading decisions of an algorithm with the intellect, instinct and intuition of humans. This will require data-scientists and traders to work closely together to challenge investing decisions and ultimately bolster confidence in the choices firms make.


What are you most looking forward to at the AI & Data Science in Trading conference?

The AI & Data Science in Trading has a carefully crafted program with a fantastic line-up of expert speakers. I’m honored to have the opportunity to lead a panel, but I am also looking forward to soaking up knowledge in the other sessions and networking with attendees to better understand the challenges and possible solutions in this cutting-edge area.


 What is your biggest professional achievement to date?

Conceiving, planning and delivering the two-day WSJ Pro Small Business Academy cybersecurity event for hundreds of small business executives in San Diego in late 2018 ranks as a career highlight. For over a decade, I have focused on helping executives better understand cybersecurity and navigate the threat and risk landscape, but seeing this event come to fruition and making a real difference to the security of smaller businesses was a very positive experience. 


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