CAIS, the alternative investments platform used by more than 4,400 wealth management firms and groups, has hired George Davies to be its head of data and leverage artificial intelligence to extract insights from the “mine of information” CAIS has collected since its founding more than 10 years ago.
Davies, who got a Ph.D. in astrophysics before pursuing a career in finance, was previously the chief data officer at TraverseIQ, a data analytics firm, and iSentium, a company that gathers real-time market sentiment data and creates indicators for traders. He also worked as a quantitative analyst at the Swiss financial services firm UBP Asset Management, A.R.T. Advisors, and Scotia Capital Markets. Most recently, Davies was the vice president of data at SmartAsset, where he managed the company’s data engineering and data science teams.
CAIS, a New York-based company founded in 2009, has used some forms of artificial intelligence to learn about its customers and inform company decisions, CAIS chief technology officer Shane Williams told RIA Intel.
“George is really going to accelerate what we do from the machine learning and the AI point of view to help really understand the data,” Williams said. “Data is the new oil. It’s the fuel that drives our understanding.”
Williams joined CAIS in December last year and has since grown the number of technology professionals there by 5x. He was previously the co-head of the SmartWealth Digital Investment Platform at UBS, and the head of client technology at AQR Capital Management, the quantitative investment firm co-founder Cliff Asness.
“I’ve done a lot of this work previously at AQR and UBS, so I knew what I was looking for in the person,” Williams said about the head of data job at CAIS. “George is very talented with not a big ego.”
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Davies will lead a small data science team that was already in place and partly preparing for someone with his expertise. “We had a mine of information but not the tools to extract gold out of the mine,” Williams said.
The CTO expects to keep hiring at the pace he has into 2022 but it won’t be easy.
“Generally, the market for hiring people, whether it is in the data science world or in general, it’s very, very tough at the moment,” Williams said. “Everyone is really starting to appreciate data and what it can do for them.”
More private wealth managers — in search of yield and returns as interest rates remain low, or to differentiate from competitors — are turning to alternative investments (research suggests they are underexposed to the asset class). That interest has helped alternative investment platforms grow. In August, the $80 billion platform iCapital raised $440 million in funding. The number of advisors on the CAIS platform, which has facilitated almost $14 billion in transactions, has grown 89 percent year-over-year, the company said Monday.
Still, getting wealth managers to engage the platforms and properly invest their clients in alternatives remains a hurdle. Last summer, CAIS launched CAIS IQ which offers “snackable” bursts of learning, in the form of videos, webinars and podcasts, that it says has already proved it helps advisors “master” alternative investments spending just minutes each day.
Michael Thrasher (@Mike_Thrasher) is the editor of RIA Intel and based in New York City.