Scott Ross still remembers some early career advice he got from his manager when he joined Wall Street 25 years ago.
“My first boss told me you succeed by finding technology that solves business problems no one knows could be done through technology,” said Ross, now global head of IT and research and business development at UBS. “Technology today is no longer an expense — it has become an asset, a fundamental part of the business, and that has changed entirely the relationship between the technology and business functions of UBS.”
That shift is a key reason UBS partnered with the Hanlon Financial Systems Center at the School of Business at Stevens Institute of Technology. Dr. George Calhoun, director of the Hanlon Financial Systems Center, likened the partnership to the relationships between the defense industry and university research labs after World War II.
“In 10 years, you’re going to have a network in this country of academic-industry cooperation in the financial field that will have as much structure, and as much mass and momentum, as what we see today when we look at the defense and healthcare industries and their relationship with academia,” Dr. Calhoun said.
Through the partnership, UBS will provide funding to support education and research projects in the field of finance and financial technology, as well as related disciplines that align with the rapidly evolving institutional structures and technologies of the modern financial world, such as blockchain and artificial intelligence. A portion of the funding will also support three named UBS scholarships.
Leveraging Stevens' strength in tech, finance
For UBS, the Hanlon Financial Systems Center is an important part of the relationship. The Swiss financial giant already employs many Stevens business students as interns and employees. The center is home to two state-of-the-art labs with powerful hardware and software tools capable of helping students and researchers address current and future financial challenges, evaluate the efficacy of proposed regulations, create and refine products that meet market demands, and collaborate and present findings in real time to audiences around the world.
“Technology today is no longer an expense — it has become an asset, a fundamental part of the business.”
At a reception in the Babbio Center at Stevens on Dec. 8, UBS and Stevens spoke about the value the partnership represents for both parties.
“The traditional asset management industry is being disrupted by technology-enabled low-cost providers,” said Bryan Cross, head of systematic research for UBS Asset Management. “We must think differently, we must embrace technology and create new partnerships that expand our thinking beyond traditional financial disciplines. Doing all of this will enable us to provide a better value proposition for our clients.”
With technology-centric programs in finance, financial engineering and management, the School of Business is an established leader in teaching and research that explores how professionals can leverage technological and analytical tools to identify opportunities, leverage innovation and drive decision making. Stevens has further leadership in areas like computer science and physics, as well as connections through alumni, such as Krista Carr ’12, who works in technology business development as head of venture capital and startup engagements for UBS.
Carr, who graduated with a bachelor’s in Business, said the industry experience of her business professors was a key consideration in thinking about how to form a partnership.
“The majority of my professors came from the industry, so when we started having these conversations with George Calhoun, he already understood the hurdles. He knows it’s a fickle business to get something like this off the ground,” she said.
The event was attended by Dr. Gregory Prastacos, dean of the School of Business; Dr. Nariman Farvardin, president of Stevens; Dr. Christophe Pierre, provost; and members of the Stevens board of trustees, including Sean Hanlon ’80, whose family provided the generous support needed to build the two labs.
Hanlon, who is chairman, CEO and chief investment officer of Hanlon Investment Management, said UBS’ involvement with Stevens is “the culmination of a dream.”
“You can control certain things along the journey,” Hanlon said. “You can control building the labs, you can control having students who learn in those labs, you can try to control the research you do in those labs, but this relationship with UBS — you can’t control it, you hope for it.”