Marko Kolanovic Says Quant Investing Has Limits

An article in Bloomberg last month profiled an interview with JPMorgan Chase global head of macro quantitative and derivatives research Marko Kolanovic, who has gained a following in the investment community for his market-moving announcements.

The article reports that Kolanovic—who leads a global team of about 50 researchers– began developing his ideas about systematic investing strategies in 2015. The idea gained popularity, but also brought some blind spots into Kolanovic’s focus. “If you’re running a strategy just based on the formulas,” he told Bloomberg, “you’ll miss a lot of bigger-picture issues, whether it’s macro developments around central banks or politicians, or geopolitical risks, or a lot of behavioral biases. There are limitations as to how far a quantitative approach can get you.”

Here are some highlights from the interview:

Kolanovic considers himself a contrarian. “If you’re just going to be stating consensus, and a trend follower,” he argues, “you’re not adding much value.”

Regarding macro trends, Kolanovic cited what he described as a “fragility in the marketplace that came with the new structure of liquidity, with electronic market-making, computers, and growth in passive” investing. While he predicts that both passive and quant assets will grow, and artificial intelligence will play a bigger role in market-making, he warns that there are problems with computerized liquidity that could “really deal a blow to investors and markets overall.”

With regard to electronic trading, Kolanovic cites concerns about “potential abuses with social media posts and headlines,” adding that reaction times are getting shorter. “That’s going to get and worse and be more of an impediment for human investors to make money. It’s going to cause more confusion in the marketplace.”