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Stevens, UBS meet at intersection of tech, finance

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Professor George Calhoun, director of the Hanlon Financial Systems Center and Director of Quantitative Finance in the School of Business at Stevens Institute of Technology.
Professor George Calhoun, director of the Hanlon Financial Systems Center and Director of Quantitative Finance in the School of Business at Stevens Institute of Technology. - ()

Quantitative finance involves the mathematical modeling of financial markets, and today that demands cutting-edge technology to deal with the algorithms enabling traders to make transactions more quickly than before.

To stay ahead of the daunting tech curve, the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken formed a partnership with financial-services firm UBS to forge a curriculum for Stevens students.

“There are lots of issues related to the implementation of new technology,” said George Calhoun, industry professor and director of Stevens’ Hanlon Financial Systems Center and its quantitative finance program. “A lot of that is generated from the unintended or unforeseen consequences of new technology coming into the market. It has become a field that calls out for a lot of what you might call the traditional academic mission of supporting basic research in the area of finance.”

Said Scott Ross, global head of IT and research and business development at UBS: “Technology today is no longer an expense — it has become an asset, a fundamental part of the business. And that has changed entirely the relationship between the technology and business functions of UBS.”

Bryan Cross, head of systematic research for UBS Asset Management, said traditional asset management providers are facing new competition from technology-enabled low-cost providers.

“We must think differently, we must embrace technology and create new partnerships that expand our thinking beyond traditional financial disciplines,” Cross said. “Doing all of this will enable us to provide a better value proposition for our clients.”

Calhoun said he hopes Stevens will partner with other financial services firms. In the UBS programs students use two labs in the Hanlon Financial Systems Center outfitted with Bloomberg terminals to mine data.

“New Jersey is effectively a part of the New York City global financial center,” Calhoun said. “Space in Lower Manhattan and Midtown is increasingly at a premium, so the spillover from the Gold Coast from Jersey City to Hoboken means that a lot of the financial industry is New Jersey-based or at least they have significant operations in New Jersey.”

Stevens Trustee Sean Hanlon, who is the chairman, CEO and chief investment officer of Hanlon Investment Management, called the partnership UBS and Stevens struck last year “the culmination of a dream.”

“You can control certain things along the journey. You can control building the labs, you can control having students who learn in those labs, you can try to control the research you do in those labs, but this relationship with UBS — you can’t control it, you hope for it,” Hanlon said.

SIT’s quantitative finance program attracts strong students who generally get multiple offers of employment upon graduation, Calhoun said.

“I tell them that’s not a problem, but some students get very stressed out,” Calhoun said, laughing.

Two hundred students are currently enrolled in the program.

“We have had a 100 percent job placement in the last three years,” Calhoun said. “I would like to maintain that. It indicates in terms of incoming students that we have a degree that is very attractive.”

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David Hutter

David Hutter

David Hutter grew up in Darien, Conn., and covers higher education, transportation and manufacturing for NJBIZ. He can be reached at dhutter@njbiz.com.

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