Stevens Opens Financial Systems Lab to Support Innovative Research


In April 2012, Stevens Institute of Technology celebrated the opening of the Hanlon Financial Systems Lab, designed to enhance the institute’s ability to train students for an increasingly tech-driven financial industry.

The lab will give students and faculty a platform for studying important issues at the crossroads of technology and finance, such as cybersecurity, systemic risk, enterprise-level risk management and financial software development.

Stevens observed the opening of the lab—a hardware and software laboratory set up to mirror facilities found at investment banks, hedge funds, financial institutions and asset management firms—with a daylong event featuring an academic symposium.

Speakers included Robert Engle, NYU finance professor and winner of the 2003 Nobel Prize in Economics; Andrei Kirilenko, chief economist at the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC); and Lou Crandall, chief economist at Wrightson ICAP. A luncheon keynote speech was given by Richard Brueckner, chief of staff, BNY Mellon (New York).

As she has for many NJ businesses and universities, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno helped open the center. Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer also attended the ribbon cutting.

After the event, had the opportunity to speak with John “Sean” Hanlon, the Stevens grad and trustee who has endowed the Stevens Financial Systems Center (FSC) lab. Hanlon, who founded Hanlon Investment Management (Egg Harbor Twp.) in 1999, will serve as chair of the FSC’s advisory board.

Hanlon told NJTechWeekly.comhe was inspired to give the lab to Stevens by a desire to “lead from the top” and present a good example to other trustees and alumni. He said he was “doubly fortunate” that Stevens had an opportunity that fit into his professional interest area.

Ribbon_cutting_at_Hanlon_financial_systems_labThe institute had already established quantitative finance and financial engineering programs at the FSC several years ago but needed an up-to-date lab for its students and for industry. “We determined those programs would be enriched by a laboratory,” he explained.

Hanlon was intimately involved in establishing what the lab would look like, he said. “Some inputs we worked with were physical space constraints and existing and future curriculum.”

“We had to decide what courses would benefit most from a lab and what tasks the lab should be able to do to benefit the courses. We also had to consider unknown future research opportunities.”

“Hopefully the lab will enable researchers to do a deep dive into the systemic nature of markets and financial systems and societal risk in how the financial services industry is functioning,” Hanlon said.

To that end, Stevens is partnering with the private sector, some of the biggest and largest institutions, to help solve some of its problems, he said.

ICAP, a major institutional trading firm based in Jersey City, and RealTick, part of ConvergEx Group (New York and Chicago), are strategic partners. RealTick has donated 35 trading terminals to the lab.

RealTick also supplies order execution management software, Hanlon said. “They are giving us access to real-time trading for our students and researchers to have a live view of the markets,” he added. Stuart Breslow, RealTick’s CEO, is a Stevens alumnus.

Additional support, data and software for the lab will be provided by Bloomberg, Thomson Reuters, Jefferies, Gain Capital, Tripwire, Decide-FS, RedSeal Networks and Fortify. On the government and regulatory side, Kirilenko, chief economist at the CFTC, is on the FSC’s board of advisors, Hanlon said.

“The financial services industry today can almost be described as the technology industry whose products are financial services,” Hanlon said. Technology is everywhere and used every day in financial services, so the Stevens FSC and the lab form the crossroads at which technology and financial services meet. “We expect to be a leader in education and research in that regard,” he added.

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