Stevens Celebrates Financial Systems Center Launch

4/18/2012

Stevens jumped to the forefront of finance education with this week’s opening of the Financial Systems Center (FSC), a state-of-the-art financial research and teaching facility with an inter-disciplinary focus across financial systems, software engineering and cybersecurity.  

Officially opened during a series of launch events on April 17, the FSC will support academic programs at the undergraduate, master’s and doctoral levels by applying systems thinking to analyze the behavior of the complex global financial system and confront the most urgent problems in contemporary finance. At its heart is the Hanlon Financial Systems Lab, a financial trading room which integrates the latest technologies – including 12 Bloomberg computer terminals – and provides access to real-time and historical data.

The FSC launch began with a VIP ribbon-cutting ceremony in the Babbio Center and tour of the Hanlon Financial Systems Lab, which was a gift of Stevens alumnus and Board of Trustees member Sean Hanlon, (B.E. in Mechanical Engineering, 1980), CEO and chief investment officer of Hanlon Investment Management. Along with Hanlon, Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer and Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno (R-NJ) were in attendance at the ribbon-cutting, alongside Stevens officials.

Guadagno applauded Stevens for taking a leadership role in preparing students for careers in financial services and enhancing its finance curriculum to make New Jersey a more desirable place for Wall Street firms to establish operations. The finance industry accounts for 6 percent of total state employment and 11 percent of total wages earned, and it has been targeted as an area of long-term growth in New Jersey’s new State Strategic Plan.

“Stevens graduates will be well-prepared to step out of the classroom and into jobs right here in New Jersey,” Guadagno said in an official press release.

The next FSC launch event was an academic colloquium which drew a full house to DeBaun Auditorium. Opened by Dr. George Korfiatis, provost, and moderated by Dr. Khaldoun Khashanah, Financial Engineering program director, the colloquium featured three thought leaders who provided their views on the necessity of applying a systems approach to the study of global finance, as markets move at higher speeds and grow ever more interconnected.

Dr. Lou Crandall, chief economist at Wrightson ICAP, summarized the current problems facing the financial industry and outlined lessons from the turbulence of the last five years. He said preceding the economic crisis, we had blinders to what problems would have a ripple effect through the system – especially those at the periphery of the system – which left us vulnerable to being blindsided.

“Putting financial research in a systems perspective is an appropriate and fruitful way of extending the kind of analysis we currently do and understanding systemic risk,” Crandall said. “This will be very important for the economics profession going forward. We can certainly benefit from insights from other disciplines.”

Dr. Robert Engle – a Finance professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business and the winner of the 2003 Nobel Prize in Economics – discussed how widespread underestimation of risk and excessive incentives for taking risks contributed to the recent global financial crisis. He said a broader, cross-disciplinary viewpoint could be instrumental in preventing future crises by revealing better notions and products for measuring systemic risk.

“I think the kind of research that might come out of the FSC can make progress in improving how the system works to prevent the future disruption of the global economy,” Engle said.

Finally, Dr. Andrei Kirilenko, chief economist for the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, discussed the necessity of bringing rigor and data validation to how we analyze and work with the markets so as to prevent small decisions from resulting in large losses. He said the discipline of systems engineering is excellent at doing this through both engineering and technological solutions.

“There is great synergy between what Stevens has to offer and how the financial markets work today,” Kirilenko said.

Following the colloquium was a luncheon featuring keynote speaker Richard Breuckner, chief of staff of BNY Mellon, who spoke about the impact of government over-regulation on finance and Stevens’ leadership in the area of financial analysis.

Later in the evening, Stevens on the Street – a group which brings together finance-sector alumni – hosted a cocktail reception at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Manhattan. Stevens President Nariman Farvardin welcomed alumni from every decade since 1950 in an eloquent speech that described the potential for the FSC to make a real and lasting impact in the financial industry. Also speaking briefly during the reception were three guests of honor: Hanlon; Stevens alumna Carmine Lizza (B.E. in Electrical Engineering/Computer Science, 1985), managing director, CIO and global head of technology for Lazard; and Chris Ferreri (B.E. in Electrical Engineering, 1977), managing director of ICAP.

“I hope the Stevens FSC will become the place Wall Street will go when it encounters complex financial challenges and problems that it doesn’t know what to do with,” Farvardin said.

ICAP and RealTick are strategic partners of the FSC. Additional support, data and software will be provided by Bloomberg, Thomson Reuters, Jefferies, Gain Capital, Tripwire, Decide-FS, Redseal and Fortify.

Learn more about the FSC at www.stevens.edu/fsc.