Iacocca conference center.

The Quant Financial Engineering Conference took place in the Iacocca Conference Center. 

College of Business Hosts Financial Engineering Conference

The conference aimed to promote the exchange of ideas in data management, deep learning and other finance areas.

Story by

Mary Ellen Alu

Photography by

John Kish IV

Experts in financial engineering and quantitative finance converged at Lehigh on Friday (Nov. 15) for a Quant/Financial Engineering Conference that addressed the challenges in today’s data-centric business environment. The conference aimed to promote the exchange of ideas in data management, data science, blockchain, deep learning and other areas. 

“I have to say that I’m particularly pleased to be at this conference, because we at Lehigh Business have taken on as our mission that we are going to stand at the intersection of business and technology,” said Georgette Chapman Phillips, the Kevin L. and Lisa A. Clayton Dean of the College of Business, in welcoming attendees.

Dean Georgette Chapman Phillips.

Dean Georgette Chapman Phillips. 

The conference was sponsored by the Perella Department of Finance, the Center for Financial Services and the Institute for Data, Intelligent Systems and Computation. 

Noting that the College of Business promotes interdisciplinary learning, Phillips said, “The one thing we can all agree on, no matter where we come from across the university and across the industry spectrum, [is] the world of quantitative analytics and financial engineering shine a bright, complex and ever-changing light on how we conduct business.”

The conference took a “deep dive” into the ramifications of the dramatic changes underway in the financial services industry, including in the areas of mortgage lending and robo advising.  

“As we know, data is the hottest commodity now in the financial world,” Phillips said. “It’s pervasive by nature and powerful in its interpretation.” She continued, “How are we going to manage the rapid growth and importance of data in the finance area? To answer that question requires thoughtful and insightful resolution.” 

Phillips said new and developing technologies require serious conversations, including how Lehigh educators will identify and address the skills that students will need in entering the workforce following graduation.

“How are we going to give them the tools for success?” Phillips asked. “And how do we impart the necessary knowledge? This is a real big push that we're making. We're trying to change how we teach [students]. It's not enough to change just what we're teaching—that's crucial—but also the how.”

Seven panel discussions focused on deep-learning applications in finance, parallelization and data management, data analytics in securities enforcement, the impact of technology on hiring in the financial industry, distributed computing, blockchain, and data science vs. data engineering. Panelists included Lehigh faculty and industry experts.

Morning panel discussion.

Hector Muñoz-Avila, professor of computer science and engineering, moderated the first session. From left are Muñoz and panelists Daniel Scansaroli ’05, ’06G, ’09G, ’11Ph.D., head of Portfolio Construction & Modeling and managing portfolio strategist at BlueMountain Capital; Jeffrey Anthony, co-founding partner of Synaptic Consulting; Neal Snow, assistant professor of accounting, and Juha E. Korpela, founder, EcoFinSys LLC.

In addition to the panel discussions, Professor Kathleen Weiss Hanley, who holds the Bolton-Perella Endowed Chair in Finance, presented on “How Regulation and Technology are Sometimes Misaligned in Both Directions.” 

In her lunchtime presentation, Hanley discussed what she said are misalignments in the financial industry, including between regulations and shadow banks.

“The shadow bank is not well defined. It depends on your perspective,” she said. “The Federal Reserve would argue that a shadow bank is any financial institution that does maturity, credit or liquidity transformation, yet is not under the purview of banking regulators such as the Federal Reserve or the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency,” Hanley said.

Prof. Kathleen Weiss Hanley

Professor Kathleen Weiss Hanley, who holds the Bolton-Perella Endowed Chair in Finance, presented on “How Regulation and Technology are Sometimes Misaligned in Both Directions."

She said banking regulators struggle with their ability to regulate shadow banks, which has caused concern among regulators because of the increased use of FinTech or peer-to-peer lending in mortgages and consumer credit.

“We know from studying history that most crises are on the back of the mortgage market, that housing is an important component of financial instability,” she said. “And, therefore, regulators are very concerned about shadow banking activity in that particular sector.”

A panel discussion on the “Impact of Technology on Hiring in the Financial Industry” centered on the finance jobs of the future and, with the ongoing technological advancements being made in the financial services industry, how students can better prepare for the workforce. 

Joining the panel were Daniel Scansaroli ’05, ’06G, ’09G, ’11Ph.D., head of Portfolio Construction & Modeling and managing portfolio strategist at BlueMountain Capital; Michael Liebman ’88, director of business intelligence for Bloomberg LP; John Savage ’86, vice president of data science for Medidata Solutions; Troy Adair, professor of practice, College of Business; and Rebecca Wang, assistant professor of marketing, College of Business.

The panelists discussed how technological advancements have led to both the elimination of jobs and the creation of new jobs that revolve around technology. Scansaroli said that the new jobs require individuals to analyze models and algorithms. 

“You're now expected to come in and be everything from a computer scientist to a statistician to a data engineer,” Scansaroli said. “Now, it doesn't mean that you're an expert in all those things—in fact, most of these individuals are not, but they have a broad palette of skills that they draw on, and the people who are experts in one particular area are rising to the top as being the most successful.”

The panelists stressed the importance of finance students having a grasp on data literacy and programming languages such as Python. 

Also included in the discussion was whether coding should be a mandated course in the undergraduate curriculum in the College of Business.

“I think it's more important, as several people have said, that you learn one language and you learn it well, because the modalities and the functionalities that you learn if you know something can be done in the language you know, it's pretty easy to translate it,” Adair said. 

Also joining the panel discussions at the Quant Conference were several other Lehigh faculty: Hank Korth, professor of computer science and engineering; Hector Muñoz-Avila, professor of computer science and engineering, and of cognitive science; Roberto Palmieri, assistant professor of computer science and engineering; Neal Snow, assistant professor of accounting; and David Zhang, assistant professor of management.

Also participating were Jeffrey Anthony, co-founding partner of Synaptic Consulting; Frank Van Gasbeke, a professor of practice at Middlebury College; Denis Halvadzhiev, a hedge fund quant at JPMorgan Chase; Harsh Jain, a master’s student at Lehigh who is pursuing majors in data science and financial analytics;  Juha E. Korpela, founder, EcoFinSys LLC; Aziz Looman, chief analytics officer at RationalAI.com; and Stephen Strombelline, managing director at Capital Forensics Inc.

 

Story by Mary Ellen Alu and Kelley Barrett

Story by

Mary Ellen Alu

Photography by

John Kish IV

Related Stories

College of Business

Lehigh's 1-MBA Program Launches New Early Admit Program

Decision would offer ease-of-mind to college seniors and recent college graduates who want to advance their education. 

College of Business is breaking boundaries

Business Beyond Boundaries

A name change signals a new era of Lehigh’s College of Business. 

Rendering of new College of Business building

Bosland Gift to Establish New Financial Services Lab

The lab will have prominent location in proposed new building.