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Point72's Head of Data Sourcing Sameer Gupta Sits Down For An Interview

· Wall Street,Data,Data Mining,Trading

Point72's Head of Data Sourcing Sameer Gupta Sits Down For An Interview

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In the 21st century, data is everywhere. This has largely been driven by the internet and mobile technologies.

As should be expected, asset managers are looking to use data to better forecast and understand financial markets. In fact, at Point72, the use of data has been a center point of their strategy for quite some time. The hedge fund was founded in 1992 by Wall Street whiz Steven Cohen. We sat down with Sameer Gupta, Head of Data Sourcing, to learn more about the role of data at Point72.

Gupta was raised in a middle-class family in India. Growing up in a small community, he had a “hunger for education” but felt that he did not have access to the highest quality of education. His search for knowledge led him to Carnegie Mellon for a Master’s Degree, Harvard Business School, and various roles at firms like Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan.

One of the more interesting learning experiences for Gupta was at a start-up. He left his bulge-bracket job to take up a role at a natural language processing start-up, where he stayed for three years. As the Chief Operating Officer, he took on different roles at the start-up, including leading fundraising and sales. This bleeding edge experience in commercializing AI is what ultimately led him to his current role as Head of Data Sourcing at Point72.

He describes Point72 as “a big, well-funded start-up.” The firm provides a conducive environment for people like Gupta to experiment with data sources. Point72 as a firm cares about “doing the right thing” and has a strong compliance culture; employees are empowered to innovate safely and responsibly. This culture of innovation is set from the top down as the CEO of Point72 says he’ll “hear a good idea from anyone.” This approach fosters flat teams and a meritocratic firm.

Point72’s approach to acquiring data is highly pragmatic and well thought-out. Unlike many quantitative funds that start with large amounts of data and use black-box machine learning techniques to search for patterns, Point72 always begins with a hypothesis before even thinking about collecting data. These hypotheses are wrestled with, put under a microscope, and critiqued. Data acquisition can be a very expensive process; it is important to the firm that all of their incoming data has a known purpose.

Once Point72 receives data, the data undergoes a rigorous cleaning process. Gupta emphasizes that “if you put garbage in, you get garbage out.” This cleaning is a balance of both manual and algorithmic techniques—the firm strives for scalable methods, but in some cases, a human eye is valuable.

After cleaning, Point72 gets to work with integrating data into their platform. It’s important to note that they aren’t interested in black-box techniques. Point72 wants data to complement human intuition, not replace it. They seek to invest based on long-term value, and the use of data is just another means for enhancing their understanding of economies, industries and companies.

Among financial services firms, Point72 is unique because of its open culture, smart and collaborative employees, and the balance they strike between human intuition and cutting-edge technology.

Written by Sonakshi Dua & Daniel DiPietro, Edited by Alexander Fleiss