London-based Man Group, an investment firm managing more than $161 billion in assets, created a new data and machine learning team last month. The newly minted task force is building the foundational pieces for its AI agenda that could change the way its investors work for years to come.
The seven team members are tasked with forming and executing the generative AI agenda across the entire firm, Tim Mace, who leads the new department, told Insider.
The goal is to concentrate Man’s AI and machine learning firepower to reduce duplicative efforts across disparate trading desks and teams. In essence, Mace’s team will operate as an internal service provider, augmenting existing investing tools with AI and building new capabilities from the ground up.
“The challenge actually for us right now is to make sure we are clear on what everyone else is doing in the business so that we can understand how best to bring these capabilities to them, which is something I’ve been trying to do in the data world for the last few years,” Mace said.
At Man, generative AI is taking many different shapes, but they all lead up to what could be a so-called “alpha assistant” to which investors could pass off their grunt work. In June, the hedge fund deployed ManGPT, a version of OpenAI’s ChatGPT that’s open to anyone in the company to form ideas and summarize information. About 40% of the organization now uses that tool daily, Mace said.
The company’s software engineers are using generative AI to generate code, which could help Man’s some-500 technologists be more efficient. Mace is also exploring using AI to lower the barrier to entry for complex tools behind the scenes — ones that may have only been accessible via APIs and code — where less-tech-savvy investors could interact with complicated systems through written language.
“If you do get to a world where you can literally type into a box, ‘I would like you to do this, can you do this for me?’ and it knows about the tools that we’ve already built behind the scenes, and you don’t have to care about it, that makes your life a whole lot simpler,” Mace said.
Man Group’s AI building blocks
These days, most of Mace’s time is spent building models that can search through a vast text database, like large documents, and generate detailed, up-to-date summaries. Many people across the business work with large document sets, from legal teams to discretionary portfolio managers and data science teams. Training a model to understand a person’s written question, sift through a large amount of information that’s growing and updating with new data, and come back with a written answer could have wide-ranging benefits, Mace said.
Mace calls these capabilities — chat, code generation, document search, and generation — the building blocks that, when put together, could completely change how Man’s investors work.
The moonshot is a so-called “alpha assistant,” a tool that front-office teams could use to search documents for a particular idea and generate a strategy based on the information. You could even make the assistant generate code and run a backtest against historical data to gauge the strategy’s viability.
“All these components come together in a much bigger, much more capable system, and that’s where I think we’re headed,” Mace said.
Mace, who came to Man four years ago to build out a data platform for the firm’s investors, said artificial intelligence has “a lot of synergy with data.” Quantitative funds depend on mathematical and computer-based modeling to make their bets in the market. In that way, uniting Man’s data and machine learning efforts to explore generative AI use cases was a natural step, Mace said.
Generative AI is different from other AI techniques in investing, which have traditionally been used to make predictions or recommendations on future events based on historical data — such as timing the buying and selling of stocks. Generative AI creates new human-like content like images, text, or even snippets of code based on prompts.
Generative AI is “very different to how we use the other AI techniques, which is really exciting. It kind of opens up all these new avenues that we haven’t looked at before.”
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