Dr Shan Ji … We can apply our techniques to any type of market data
From R&D to analysing big data: experts across ‘multiple domains’
David Myton talks to the head of CMCRC-SIRCA’s Central Development Team, Dr Shan Ji
Dr Shan Ji is full of admiration for the man known to history as the Princeps mathematicorum – the 18th century German mathematics genius Carl Frederick Gauss.
Shan, who heads up CMCRC-SIRCA’s Central Development Team, says Gauss was not only a great mathematician but also had expertise across “multiple domains”.
“You might say this is no longer possible because each subject has become much more sophisticated, so you can’t have one single expert covering multiple areas,” he says.
Nevertheless, the Central Development Team is best understood as a “Gauss-type organisation” – it does quite a few things, and it does them very well.
“We have a mix of mandates including analysing financial markets and interpreting big data – and we are the core of all the prototyping of our products,” he says.
Among other things the CDT has been instrumental in developing the Market Quality Dashboard, a suite of solutions and data management tools from the CMCRC-SIRCA Group designed for academia and industry to unlock insight from big data.
“We can apply our techniques to any type of market data,” he says.
With his vast financial and analytical skills, Shan is also part of the Group’s expert witness services in areas such as insider trading and market manipulation in financial markets.
Big data analysed and actioned
The Central Development Team is at the core of the Group’s research and development activities.
Among other things, products are prototyped and big data is analysed and actioned; and candidates in the Group’s world-leading Industrial PhD program are also mentored and trained there.
Shan, who has a PhD in Finance from the University of New South Wales and an honours degree in Finance from the University of Western Australia, is himself a graduate of the program and so well understands the demands it makes.
“Our model for industry partnerships – of embedding our technology along with students proficient in its use – is unique and working well. Our PhD program achievements are outstanding, with more than 50 per cent of our graduates joining our industry partners on completion and, additionally, some 40 per cent of our graduates achieving their career goals in academia,” he says.
‘Our model for industry partnerships – of embedding our technology along with students proficient in its use – is unique and working well.’
The Industrial PhD program provides students with valuable skills and attributes.
These include project management, communication skills, and the development of what he calls a flexible mentality – “our students may have to deal with five to six different stakeholders during their candidature so they need to be adaptive and responsive … they develop flexible minds, and are not overawed by a new thing”.
The CDT provides online training courses for the students, who are also encouraged to work within the Team prior to placement with an industry partner – “it is effectively a type of commercial real-world operation in which they learn how to communicate with industry stakeholders in the most effective way”.
Capability to adapt to new environments
An important skill they learn is “the capability to adapt to new environments and new technologies, so they are never overawed by anything new or unexpected”.
When students are placed with industry sponsors, any problems that can’t be resolved on site are brought back to the CDT, which works with the candidate “to adapt and develop solutions to resolve the issues industry are facing”.
They are also trained in all CMCRC-SIRCA technologies such as the Market Quality Dashboard, which they can then use to help solve industry problems.
“A problem for industry is that yes, new technologies are great, but to learn and implement them they will often need to take people from their current projects and to re-train them. However, we provide the industries with the people and the technology who will convert their industry problems into a solution.”
Any problems that can’t be resolved on site can be taken back to the CDT.
“We continuously bring companies’ unresolved problems back to the Centre and invest time on them to cater for the development of their business and its need for continuous innovation.”
Understanding and managing Big Data
The CDT is expert when it comes to analysing, understanding, and managing big data.
“Organisations like Google or Microsoft cannot beat us in this area even though they have more money and resources,” says Shan.
“We began to do big data analysis about 10 to 15 years ahead of the rest of the world – that experience and knowledge is a competitive advantage.”
The CDT provides big data analytics services in financial and other markets.
“We are experienced in digging out the nature and fundamental structure of the data and once that’s done we work on interpreting it to derive analytics or metrics,” he says.
‘We are experienced in digging out the nature and fundamental structure of the data and once that’s done we work on interpreting it to derive analytics or metrics’
“Our advantage is that we to use advanced technologies that help us to build the basic structure of the data quickly and effectively.”
Big data is exactly that – big, very big.
Twenty years ago, he says, one day of data generated by the Australian Securities Exchange might produce one million rows on a spread sheet.
Data ‘increasing dramatically, exponentially’
“Today it could be 50 to 80 million rows – it is increasing dramatically, exponentially.”
The quantity is one thing – but a second component that is becoming a problem for industry is the complexity of the data due to their many different categories.
In medical insurance, for example, the data base may include numerous interactions so that data on one person alone could span 200-500 columns.
A third dimension is overlays – when different data sets are combined to provide more information.
“These three categories will only become larger and more complex,” he says.
As this future unfolds, the CDT is continuously developing and improving its technologies so that it “stands ready to provide timely and efficient technologies for industry partners”, he says.
Shan recently was a member of the Australian Blockchain Mission at the 4th Global Blockchain Summit in Shanghai. He also visited a number of local start-ups working in the digital currency domain.
He says a large number of entities in China have an interest in using digital currencies but to date have been focussed on Blockchain technology.
Shan took the opportunity to demonstrate Group products digi.cash and InfiniGold and also gave a presentation to Macquarie Bank China.
“Every single technology fundamentally is about how to make the world better,” he says.
“These two products do that because we can speed up the entire financial trading cycle and this will ultimately brings down the cost of trading and systemic risk of any asset and also enhance security.”