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The world's top quants might be in a distant desert

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority announced yesterday that it had a bumper 2021, and it’s investing in tech to celebrate.

ADIA’s quantitative research and development is headed up by Marcos Lopez de Prado, a superquant with career highlights at Citadel, the hedge fund Tudor Investment, and UBS. He’s also a university professor at Cornell. And a researcher at Lawrence Berkley national laboratory.

De Prado's ADIA team was estimated to be 50 strong in February this year. The secrecy of the fund makes it impossible to get frequent or reliable headcount figures, but at least three new people were recently added.

Some of its other stars include Nikita Proskourine, a quant with Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan, and Goldman Sachs experience; and Lauren Stevens, a 15-year veteran of FactSet. Both, incidentally, are graduates of Cornell, the university at which de Prado teaches machine learning.

ADIA director Hamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan said the fund had seen “strong returns both in absolute and relative terms." ADIA has around $700bn dollars of assets under management. 

He said in a letter that “in recent years, we have built our internal skillsets in areas such as quantitative and data-driven investing, while instilling a more systematic, science-based approach throughout the organization.”

“As part of this ongoing process, ADIA plans to roll out multiple in-house quantitative strategies in 2022 and will continue to grow its data analytics capabilities across the organization,” he added.

Reuters reported earlier this year that the sovereign wealth fund was cutting “dozens” of jobs, and insiders at the firm said that it was focused on “trimming its bloated management team, cutting expensive, long-tenured staff who have worked there for decades.”

The fund announced good progress on a variety of simplifying projects that it was pursuing internally, and that “these initiatives have combined to create more streamlined teams, with a corresponding reduction in overall headcount,” confirming earlier reports about job losses at the firm.

The fund also announced “significant recruitment activity in various parts of the organization such as in private markets and systematic quantitative investing.”

If you’re interested in a career as a quant, there are worse places to be than Abu Dhabi. Apart from working with some of the most prominent people in the industry, you also don’t pay income tax. Not bad for some.

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AUTHORZeno Toulon

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