State Super appoints Academic Oversight Body for Data Science Program


Michael Kollo

Back in 2016, State Super were one of the first Australian pension funds to start developing AI and machine learning models to manage the massive amount of data available to analyse, so as to support decision making in increasingly complex financial markets.

With increasing computing power, and better access to data and software, the use of Data Science is rapidly growing. However, as State Super’s Deputy CIO Charles Wu notes, using insights from more complex machine learning based models requires a strong governance process to avoid building in biases during the learning process, and to challenge the path of future developments.

To address this, State Super has appointed Dr Michael Kollo, Professor David Michayluk and Dr Alex Antic to be the inaugural members of the Academic Oversight Body (AOB). The AOB aims to provide oversight to the development of the investment data science capability. As John Livanas, CEO of State Super explains:

“The challenges faced by our funds, of minimising downside risk while pursuing strong returns, in a liquidity constrained manner, are well known.  Charles and his team have developed machine learning algorithms that have been helping us to effectively assess financial conditions and assist our decision-making processes.

This has led State Super to maintain superior returns, with significantly lowered risk. The Academic Oversight Body will assist State Super’s governance of our machine learning models and grow our investment data science capabilities, at a time when the speed of change in markets, and  development of machine learning and artificial intelligence research increases.”

Dr Michael Kollo, has been appointed as inaugural chair of the Academic Oversight Body. Dr Kollo gained his PhD in Finance from the London School of Economics and has extensive industry experience in the application of quantitative statistical methods at Blackrock, Fidelity, Axa Rosenberg and HESTA. Michael said that:

“The increasing scale and sophistication of capital markets drives asset owners toward using more types of data and new technologies, including AI, to help in their decision making. Having an appropriate governance framework and technical resources to oversee and guide their development not only helps members get a better outcome, it is a way for State Super to tap into the best Australian academic talent.”

The other AOB members include, Professor David Michayluk who is Head of the Finance Department at UTS Business School and earned a PhD in Finance at Louisiana State University, and Dr Alex Antic, who is Head of Data Science at Australian National University.

Reporting to the State Super Management Investment Committee, the AOB will oversee the use of data science and machine learning. Charles Wu, Deputy CIO stated that,

“State Super understands the potential value that the data science program will bring, and a robust governance framework has been developed to ensure the insights are carefully integrated with our investment process and governance framework”.

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