Franklin Templeton Sponsors Buy-Side Innovation Conference


Last week asset manager Franklin Templeton, held their inaugural “Alpha Innovation Required” (AIR) summit in Fort Lauderdale, Florida where a hand-picked group of interesting technology vendors presented how their products / services could help buy-side investors generate alpha.

Purpose of AIR

The AIR Event was the brainchild of Franklin Templeton’s SVP, Director of Global Trading Strategy, Bill Stephenson, who invited twenty technology firms to present their solutions to between 100 to 125 decision-makers on the buy side and sell side.

The attendees of the two-day conference included senior technologists/CTOs, heads of trading desks, COOs, research heads, strategists, and other similar types of industry thought leaders.  As the title of the event implied, the focus of these presentations was how these innovative companies could help institutional investors generate alpha.

Keynote Speakers

Every industry conference must feature interesting and thought-provoking key-note speakers, and the AIR conference was no different.   The keynote speakers who presented included:

Jeff Jonas, Fellow & Chief Data Scientist at IBM, got the conference off to a great start by providing an extremely entertaining discussion of the key issues involved with the use of “Big Data” to address a wide range of business questions.

Thomas Harrington, Chief Information Security Officer, Citigroup & former Associate Deputy Director, FBI gave an extremely interesting lunch speech on the lessons learned while leading the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division which can be applied to information security issues experienced by financial market participants.

Larry Tabb of the Tabb Group and Dr. Charles DeLisi, Founder of the Human Genome Project had a very revealing conversation about the lessons learned from the Human Genome Project and how they might apply to the investment community as it adopts “Big Data” initiatives.

David Schehr of Gartner Group, discussed how the “Nexus of Forces” including social interaction, mobility, cloud technology, and information are transforming the way the investment management industry will evolve in the future.

Innovative Vendors

Of course, the real focus of the AIR conference was the large group presentations and small group meetings made by the twenty hand-picked technology vendors.  Each of these vendors represented a few macro trends impacting the investment management industry.

The trends highlighted at the AIR event included the use of “Crowdsourcing” to generate alpha; the rise of “Big Data Analytics”; using “Visualization” to discover investment opportunities; and “Machine Learning” strategies in investments.   The vendors who presented included:

  • Aqumin
  • Armatnta
  • Ayasdi
  • Code:Red
  • Datawatch
  • Digital Reasoning
  • Discern
  • Dodilio
  • Essentia Analytics
  • Estimize
  • iSentium
  • Kensho
  • Narrative Science
  • OTAS Technologies
  • Portware
  • RavenPack
  • Social Market Analytics
  • Tibco
  • Trefis
  • Visible Alpha

Click here for brief explanations about each of these presenting vendors.


In my mind, the AIR conference was a success for a couple of reasons.  Not only did it highlight some pretty cool new companies and products, featured some entertaining and educational key-note speakers, but Franklin Templeton also successfully positioned themselves as an industry thought leader by inviting a number of their competitors to participate in this event.

Overall, I would recommend next year’s AIR event to any technology oriented buy-side and sell-side decision makers as it was extremely informative and quite unique as it introduced a small group of innovative vendors (many of whom were unknown to the attendees) to focus on how they could help buy-side clients improve their productivity and enhance their investment returns.  Of course, the fact that the event was held in Ft. Lauderdale during one of the longest and coldest winters in recent memory didn’t hurt either.




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