Data Trends for Investment Professionals

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5 Misleading Myths About Alternative Data

One of the (many) interesting things about alternative data is how difficult it is to define. Most people define it by what it is not: “any non-market data is alternative data”. But very few are actually able to pinpoint what it actually is. The reason, I suspect, is that alternative data is a moving target. It comes from different sources, takes different forms, and offers insights on different verticals. For example, satellite imagery can predict oil inventories, online job listings can track company growth, and insurance records can track auto sales: that’s 3 different data types, from three different sources,...

Are Drones A Legitimate Source of Alpha?

With predictions claiming that the global UAV drones market could reach up to USD 127 billion by 2020, it is clear that the drones industry is tapping into the world’s demand for more data—at faster speeds and greater precision. While many still associate drone technology with the military market, which indeed accounted for almost three-quarters of the US market total in 2015, demand for commercial drone technology has been slowly catching up in the last decade, with a predicted market size of USD 1.05 billion by 2020 and expected growth at a CAGR of 57%.1 Established and Emerging Markets The...

The Unbearable Transience of Alpha

In 2004 I enjoyed my 15 minutes of fame for an article I wrote called The Tao of Alpha, in which I explained the concept of alpha as a zero-sum game. Sources of alpha in 2004 were much different than those available in the mid-1990s when I started my career and they are also different from today's. Alpha is highly transient and has been coming and going for as long as capital markets have existed. The term “alpha” entered the vocabulary of Wall Street sometime in the 1980s, gaining widespread use in the 1990s with the proliferation of hedge funds.It...

Alternative Data – The Developing Trend in Financial Data

As quants, we’re all aware that every model has a shelf life. Sooner or later, the ideas and techniques behind every “proprietary” analytical technique diffuse into the broader world, at which point that technique is no longer the source of a competitive edge or alpha. What’s less well appreciated is that a similar pattern applies to the world of data. Rare, unique and proprietary data eventually diffuses and becomes commonplace, easily available, edgeless data. The best analysts constantly reinvent their models and source new data products to avoid their inevitable obsolescence. Today, they're venturing into the world of alternative data as a...

The Tao of Alpha

In 2004 I was running a hedge fund consultancy, where I advised many of the world's leading hedge funds. With this perspective, I wrote an article called The Tao of Alpha. The article offers a unique viewpoint on how alpha was then used and understood. We have transcribed the original article below. The Global Alpha Shortage Even the least sophisticated of investors understand that alpha is something to be pursued. Alpha is good. And more alpha is better. Not surprisingly then, most marketing documents are laced with the word. It slips easily off the tongue of marketers and managers. It appears in conference titles, as in “Portable...

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