Beware of the vicious data-mining bias !

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Scraping large amount of data can lead you to a big mistake. Here is why, and how to avoid it.

In my recent “quiz” about technology, I mentioned that finding usable data buried under mountains of useless one, the activity called “data-mining”, was a perfect application for artificial intelligence and especially neural networks.

But I also mentioned that this activity might also present a huge caveat, a logical bias that we should all be aware of. This bias, very unsurprisingly named “data-mining bias”, is what I want to talk about today.

So let’s talk about this scary “data-mining bias”.

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ESG investing – How to improve it

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This post was originally published on October 11, 2016 on my company website. It is still relevant and interesting for those who have not read it yet. I’m posting it here with some minor updates.

Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) investing is a good concept, and its growth is strong. But are the desired goals achieved?

 

It had been a while since I wanted to look at it more closely. Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) investing has always sparked interest in me, even though it was unfortunately a little bit confidential. I always saw it as a very welcomed way to link investment and finance in a positive way.

This is why I gladly accepted when I was offered to go to the “Responsible Finance Workshops” organized by a French company specialized in this investment field.

Environmental Social and Governance Funds (ESG) choose their investments according to financial criteria and social criteria. For most of them, this is expressed in practice by a refusal to invest in companies that are not respectful of the environment, or have a bad carbon footprint, or are not very respectful of their employees. The variations are numerous, but globally those funds have a discriminating approach of investment: they refuse to buy the lame duck.

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Spring break hot tech quiz

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Summer is coming up. It is about time to check what you really know about the techs that “might” replace you during your vacations.

 

I hear about “technology” all the time. All finance professionals around me seems to be very excited about it, and eager to take full advantage of it, or at the opposite, scared it might eventually make their job irrelevant.

But when I scrape just a little bit under the surface, for both of them, I realize that most of them often don’t really know much about it.

I don’t know much about it either. And this is why I constantly read and watch on various tech subjects in order keep up. This is hard and time consuming but I do think it is unavoidable, and that everyone should do it.

So here is a quick and modest ( I do not pretend to be an expert in those subjects ) little quiz that will check your “basic” knowledge about the 3 main “hot techs” of this spring in service driven industries : crypto & blockchain, artificial intelligence and quantum computers.

It won’t cover much, it won’t give you every information you need. But I do hope you will find it interesting, and that it will help you get interested and further pursue a better understanding of those subjects and the various myths that surround them!

Oh and don’t be scared about the first question ! Every bit of explanation is in the answers…

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How can they possibly still like Trump ?

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Trump’s popularity is still surprisingly high. How can we explain it, and what can it teach us about populism ?

Until very recently I was stunned. I just wasn’t getting it. It was such a huge mystery to me. How, how on earth could a great part of republican Americans still like Trump ? This is how I ended up thinking about it and trying to understand.

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The great ETF dissection of active funds

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Active mutual funds can be mysterious black boxes. Here is a method to sneak a peek inside.

Mutual funds are very opaque structures. There is so much we don’t know about them, so much we are refused to access, even when we invest in them.

It is indeed very hard to access the actual composition of their assets (the individual stocks or bonds they own). This information is barely disclosed by managers for various reasons. They might fear to see their ideas and work “stolen”. They might fear being criticized for every decision they make. They might even fear that everyone realize they charging active fund fee level for passive management (which is called “closet indexing”, and is very bad, look out for it).

The main information they often give us about what we really own, is the “benchmark”. This benchmark is supposed to be a good proxy of the fund asset composition and potential risks. But most of the time the benchmark they choose seems a bit off or even misleading. It is always an index, and is therefore very theoretical, but it is not its biggest flaw.

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Artificial intelligence, what can a video game tell us ?

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Everyone is now talking about artificial intelligence. But is it worth it ? Video games might help us on this.

Reading time: 10 minutes

Since a couple of months, artificial intelligence is the new hype. Everyone is talking about it, everyone wants to jump in, to be part of it. Applications are, it seems, almost ready and will disrupt everything, everyone. You have a job, well be careful because you might lose it to a robot in the next few years… health, transports, law, finance… no one is safe against the almighty robot…

Really ?

Well I think this might need a little more time and here is why.

I am a gamer.

Well I used to be. That was before I had the smart idea to start my own company and have three “wonderful” kids at the same time. Now gaming time got a little bit rarer…

But I am still playing from time to time, and when I do, I very frequently get back to a very specific game style, strategy, and an even more specific franchise, Sid Meier’s Civilization.

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The 8 deadly investment selling traps

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Financial brokers and private bankers use specific investment selling traps and tricks to get you into buying their products. Here is a list. Read it carefully.

I am always amazed by the success met by dishonest financial “advisors” ( brokers would be more appropriate), private bankers and insurers representatives in selling what could be considered very low quality, even toxic investments. Those products are obviously and ultimately designed in the sole purpose of earning the largest margin for their sellers with very little or even negative interest for their buyer. How is this even possible ? Clients are not stupid, their are prudent and educated people, with professional and investment experience, and well-aware of the inner motivation of those salespeople. So why ?

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Asset management and the risk of moral disruption

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Beware! A disruption can hide another one!

This is quite a good advice, while crossing a railway, always to check for the train coming the other way, hidden by the first one. You know those kinds of signs that say: “Look the other way or you risk death and a $20 fine”.

Well this reminds me very much of the current situation of asset management. They are so deeply obsessed with the disruption train that they see, that they are not watching for the bigger, hidden train coming the other way.

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The end of French two sided politics

Everyone in France (and outside) now has to rethink its political affiliation in three dimensions.
 

After the victory of Emmanuel Macron, and the constant, tiring tension that came along, I feel the need to talk a little about French Politics.

Indeed, after listening to the mumblings “from the left” arguing that he is the evil servant of big corporations and banks,  “from the right” that he is an evil left-wing, family destructing, void of beliefs politician, and finally the screams of both sides (for once agreeing on something) angering  about the pretended lack of representativeness of his election, I do feel the need to square things up a little about French politics and by extension many others democracies politics.

So here it is in short :

Can everyone stop, one and for all, talking about “left” and “right” in politics. This has absolutely no meaning.

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Active managers survival guide in a passive management jungle

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This is a very depressing time for active fund managers, as the attack of passive asset management is brutal, flanking them from both an aggressive media coverage and strong cash outflows. Who indeed could have predicted that John Bogle, yes John Bogle Vanguard’s founder, would become such a rock-star today! His pictures and quotes are just all over my tweeter feed. And it is not going away soon…

And cash inflows/outflows are just even more worrying for them. As more than 30% of US assets under management were passively managed at year end 2016, and a clear momentum for a continued increase in 2017 dawns, traditional asset managers can actually start to be scared, at least. With good reasons to !

However, the current never ending beating up of active management became that strong and mainstream, while the answer given by active managers that shaky, that we could rightfully wonder if this is not getting a bit too far. Well, of course I must confess that I am among the first ones to give them a friendly slug when I can, sorry about that, but I also consider that they might need a helping hand guiding them out of this. There are some limits to plain criticism and being more constructive is possible.

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