Physics Meets Markets

Terry Flanagan

As its name suggests, Systematic Alpha Management doesn’t wing it in trying to beat the market; rather, the New York-based hedge fund seeks alpha by deploying methodical and regular procedures. These entail market-neutral, absolute-return oriented quantitative trading strategies, which are high-frequency in nature and mostly contrarian. The firm’s trading and investing professionals include theoretical physicists, mathematicians, and computer scientists.

Systematic Alpha generates some of its investment ideas from analogies with physics, particularly in such areas as fluid dynamics and fluid turbulence, statistical physics, plasma physics, and critical phenomena. Its investment approach relies heavily on the extensive studies of the statistical relationships that have existed in the past, either in the individual markets or in relationships between the markets.

Markets Media interviewed Richard Flom, vice president of trading for Systematic Alpha, via e-mail on May 28.

Markets Media: Briefly explain the history of the firm, from inception to current day.

Richard Flom: In June 2000 Peter Kambolin, who was running an introducing broker-dealer in New York, met with Alexei Chekhlov, who had vast experience working for investment firms, such as BNP Paribas, Wexford Management and TrendLogic Associates. The two principals have combined Peter’s multi-year financial business and trading experience with the hard science and quantitative finance background of Alexei, who worked at Princeton University and now serves on the faculty of the mathematics department at Columbia University. Soon, they co-founded with a third partner an asset-management firm that initially managed individual accounts. In 2004 the firm consolidated the individual accounts into a fund which is now known as Systematic Alpha Futures Fund, Ltd.


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