Hedge Funds Weigh-In on Human Versus Machine Debate

“Humans won’t be obsolete in this lifetime,” according to a recent article in Bloomberg.

The article discusses a variety of prevailing opinions about the degree to which automation and big data will displace money managers. Winton, a London-based $30.6 billion hedge fund, told its clients that “people must still make the big decisions,” adding that computers are not ready to make investment elections on their own. Computers may be sufficient to “handle early stages of checking data,” according to the firm, but humans are “better at cross-referencing the irregularities against other sources to draw conclusions.”

That said, however, the article reports, “there’s lots of news troubling financial professionals,” and offers the examples of billionaire trader Steven Cohen’s experimentation with ways to automate his top money managers, and JP Morgan Chase’s use of machine-learning techniques to “take over work from lawyers.”

For investing professionals, that article says, the concern isn’t simply that the firms may need fewer employees to perform tasks, it’s also that the firms will be competing against low-cost rivals. “Hedge fund managers, for example,” it says, “traditionally charge clients 2 percent of assets and 20 percent of profits. It’s harder to justify if automated platforms can achieve decent results without a big bite. Such has been the case with index funds.”