Fearless Founder Ryan Pillai Attends MIT’s Sloan Investment Conference

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2016 Pitch Dingman Competition winner Ryan Pillai

Through a Dingman Center grant, last month, Fearless Founder Ryan Pillai `19 traveled to MIT for the Sloan Investment Conference which took place at the Sloan School of Business. Below is Ryan’s first-hand account of the experience.

The annual Sloan Investment Conference brings together investment professionals from different industries and fosters education and meaningful discussions on hot button topics in finance.  This year, the theme was “Value Creation and Shareholder Engagement” with a broad range of ideas from Big Data and AI in the quant investment space to a crypto investment debate. Panel speakers included well renowned speakers from MIT and large private funds, many of whom engaged the audience with a friendly light air, which was refreshing and kept the conference from feeling exhaustive.

There was a lot of technical information presented so having a background in finance was a prerequisite to attending (surprise!). Nevertheless, I was able to somewhat keep up with the jargon with the occasional Google search. Here are some of my key takeaways from the talks that I wanted to share.

Students interested in quantitative finance should have a general background in all the major aspects of business, from investing, to finance, to basic accounting. Analyzing investments requires looking at all aspects of company performance and developing sophisticated data analysis techniques to find patterns from all relevant data is an essential skill.

In respect to Machine Learning and AI in finance, predicting financial trends is much more than relying on historical data. Funds of all sizes are building quant teams from different backgrounds to gain even the smallest edge on competitors and perform competitively in the capital markets. It has gotten more time intensive and expensive to do valuable data analysis.

The crypto investing debate was an upbeat discussion, despite the recent dive in price and the tumultuous nature of the coin.  Some interesting ideas were tossed around, one investor shared that he believed we are in the biggest financial bubble in history and having currency outside the system would help lessen the impact. One called Bitcoin “a useful fiction” stating that Bitcoin did not have any intrinsic value but served a purpose that fiat currencies failed to address.

All things considered, the conference was a chance to meet people passionately pursuing work separate from my own field (engineering). There were plenty of opportunities to chat with current Sloan students and panel speakers and discuss their various backgrounds. From these discussions, I gleaned one of the major draws for both academic and private programs was the diversity in its applicant pool. Focusing on your interests and applying your skill sets to business is interesting, and if your goal is to land a job or attend one of these top institutions, understand the greatest value proposition is the uniqueness of the experiences that you bring to the table. Something for all of us to think about as we are just starting our careers!

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