The Rise and Fall of the Quants

Can Wall Street do without the technogeeks who designed its complex derivatives markets?

4 min read

When the U.S. financial system melted down, fingers were quickly pointed at the “quants”—the physicists, mathematicians, and engineers who had devised the computer programs, statistical tools, and financial instruments that were supposed to help investors manage risks. Critics said that it was the flawed assumptions of those financial models that brought banking to the brink of Armageddon.

You might guess that Wall Street is now shunning physicists, mathematicians, and engineers, but you’d be wrong. Talented people with quantitative backgrounds are more welcome than ever [see sidebar, "Why Be a Quant "], says Petter Kolm, deputy director of New York University’s master’s program for mathematics in finance and formerly a quant for Goldman Sachs. Before the financial mess started in the fall of 2007, he says, investment banks typically hired fresh MBA grads as entry-level analysts. “Many investment banks I talk to today say they want to replace that portion of people with MBAs with people who have quantitative analysis skills, such as engineering and math.”

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Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

His pivot from defense helped a tiny tuning-fork prevent SUV rollovers and plane crashes

11 min read
Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

In 1992, Asad M. Madni sat at the helm of BEI Sensors and Controls, overseeing a product line that included a variety of sensor and inertial-navigation devices, but its customers were less varied—mainly, the aerospace and defense electronics industries.

And he had a problem.

The Cold War had ended, crashing the U.S. defense industry. And business wasn’t going to come back anytime soon. BEI needed to identify and capture new customers—and quickly.

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