The Robots Are Coming for Wall Street

March 03, 2016

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Hundreds of financial analysts are being replaced with software. What office jobs are next?

When Daniel Nadler woke on Nov. 6, he had just enough time to pour himself a glass of orange juice and open his laptop before the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its monthly employment report at 8:30 a.m. He sat at the kitchen table in his one-bedroom apartment in Chelsea, nervously refreshing his web browser — Command-R, Command-R, Command-R — as the software of his company, Kensho, scraped the data from the bureau’s website. Within two minutes, an automated Kensho analysis popped up on his screen: a brief overview, followed by 13 exhibits predicting the performance of investments based on their past response to similar employment reports.

Nadler couldn’t have double-checked all this analysis if he wanted to. It was based on thousands of numbers drawn from dozens of databases. He just wanted to make sure that Kensho had pulled the right number — the overall growth in American payrolls — from the employment report. It was the least he could do, given that within minutes, at 8:35 a.m., Kensho’s analysis would be made available to employees at Goldman Sachs.

In addition to being a customer, Goldman is also Kensho’s largest investor. Nadler, who is 32, spent the rest of the morning checking in with some of the bank’s most regular Kensho users — a top executive on the options-and-derivatives-trading desks, a fund manager — then took an Uber down for a lunch meeting at Goldman’s glass tower just off the West Side Highway in Manhattan. While almost everyone in the building dresses in neatly pressed work attire, Nadler rarely deviates from his standard outfit: Louis Vuitton leather sandals and a casual but well-cut T-shirt and pants, both by the designer Alexander Wang. Nadler owns 10 sets of these. His austere aesthetic is informed by the summer vacations he spent in Japan while pursuing a doctoral degree in economics from Harvard, mostly visiting temples and meditating. (‘‘Kensho’’ is the Japanese term for one of the first states of awareness in the Zen Buddhist progression.) He also wrote a volume of poetry — imagined ancient love poems — that Farrar Straus & Giroux will publish later this year.

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