HABA Panel Discussion on Man vs. Machine

April 15, 2018

NEW YORK – The Hellenic American Association for Professionals in Finance (HABA) held an informative and lively panel discussion on “Man vs. Machine: Who will generate the best investment returns in 2018?” on April 12 at the offices of Marsh Private Client Services in Midtown Manhattan. The discussion featured panelists Maria Vassalou- Partner & Portfolio Manager, Perella Weinberg Partners (PWP); Sophia X Liu- Fixed Income Trader, Citadel LLC; and Mike Khorrami- Managing Partner, Cayley Investment Management. HABA Vice President Robert Savage- CEO & Co-Founder, CCTrack Solutions, served as the moderator.

HABA President Fanny Trataros gave the welcoming remarks, thanking all those in attendance, and also noting that the organization’s next event is the Executive of the Year Award Dinner on June 15.

Moderator Robert Savage then thanked the organizers of the event, especially Nick Lionas for arranging the room at Marsh and Costas Kellas for helping bring the panelists. A clip from the most recent Terminator film with its imaginative view of where “man versus machine” might lead in the future, made everyone laugh.

Savage noted that the debate would be about the systematic or discretionary approach to investing rather than passive or active, adding that the panelists would argue both sides as well as a mixed approach, and perhaps change some of the audience members’ minds. He asked for a show of hands for the systematic, discretionary, or both, and then asked for the panelists to introduce themselves and then briefly make their case.

Dr. Vassalou, began her career in academia before going into the “real world,” is in favor of the systematic approach, noting the advantages, including that it is devoid of emotions and psychological biases, allows more information to be used for a rigorous portfolio and better risk management.

She is responsible for leading the PWP Global Macro business which manages volatility-targeting, multi-asset class systematic strategies on behalf of primarily institutional investors. Vassalou has more than 10 years of investment experience. She was an Associate Professor of Finance at Columbia Business School which she joined in 1995. She has received several professional awards including HABA’s Executive of the Year 2016, and was included in the 50 Leading Women in Hedge Funds in 2015. Since 2016, she is a member of the Board of Directors of Tsakos Energy Navigation.

Khorrami noted that the discretionary approach when it is disciplined and forward-looking will beat the systematic approach because the data changes constantly. Liu observed that the machine wins every time and can be trained to make inferences, human emotion can cloud judgement, and the machine is immune to noise, can process faster with so much data coming in globally, “it will filter the noise.” Khorrami said that humans are better at adapting to change than machines.

Vassalou said that you have to keep doing research and evolving, and the systematic approach is not “set it and forget it.”

When the moderator asked about machine learning and artificial intelligence, Vassalou noted that machines are created by humans and cannot exist without humans, and there are advantages and disadvantages.

A Q&A session followed the panel discussion with a variety of questions and comments from the audience members.

Also in attendance at the event were HABA Officers- Manny Caravanos- Treasurer, and Sophia Prountzos- Secretary, and Directors Costas Kellas and Nick Lionas. St. John’s University Professor Manuel G. Russon was present as well as many finance professionals and interested members of the community.


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