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Partnership with investment giant to boost financial technology

Merrill Lynch and MIT last Friday announced a five-year institutional partnership to pursue joint research across a broad range of disciplines and build a path-breaking financial technology curriculum at MIT.

The strategic institutional partnership has two central components: a $15 million joint research initiative that will fund collaborative projects in financial engineering and technology innovation and management, and a $5 million charitable gift that will help MIT establish a new graduate minor in financial technology.

The Sloan School of Management, the School of Engineering, the School of Architecture and Planning and six laboratories across the Institute will be involved in the initiative. The unique university/industry partnership will strengthen MIT's tradition of applied interdisciplinary programs and serve as a model for other higher educational institutions.

"This collaboration supports Merrill Lynch's commitment to investigating and implementing new technologies and business methods which will help us continue to provide our clients with the most intelligent, effective advice and service globally," said Herbert M. Allison Jr., president and chief operating officer. "The initiative anticipates and addresses a growing need within the financial services industry for sophisticated graduates schooled in a broad, multidisciplinary curriculum and for focused research on key financial-services issues. MIT is the perfect partner, bringing a broad range of disciplines and a multidimensional faculty and student body to the initiative."

Said President Charles M. Vest: "The forces now shaping the global marketplace are as powerful and as far-reaching as those that drove the Industrial Revolution, and their impact on the way we live, work and interact will be equally profound. The demand for multidimensional leaders to solve the complex problems of this modern world requires stronger, innovative partnerships between industry and academia."


A new graduate minor in financial technology will be part of the Financial Technology Education Initiative, a joint undertaking that will be anchored at the Sloan School and the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences (EECS) in the School of Engineering. The program will provide finance education for MIT graduate students from technology fields such as engineering, mathematics, computer science and media studies. The minor will increase financial applications within the engineering school's technology courses and boost the number of technology courses available to those in the financial engineering management track of Sloan's MBA program.

"This joint initiative between MIT's management and engineering schools will offer students a unique comparative advantage in the marketplace by providing them with a necessary blend of management and finance, technology and engineering competencies," said Chancellor Lawrence S. Bacow.

Research projects at the three participating schools will also be funded by the partnership. The Laboratory for Financial Engineering, housed at the Sloan School, will launch a series of new research initiatives in electronic commerce, risk management, data mining and computational finance.

Andrew Lo, director of the lab and founder of Sloan's financial engineering management track, is one of the foremost thinkers and researchers in the field of financial engineering. "Financial markets are becoming increasingly complex, and the exponential growth of the Internet and electronic commerce are having profound social, political, technical and economic effects on the economy and society," he said. "Partnering with Merrill Lynch has given us the intellectual and financial resources to produce the next generation of financial technologies and financial engineers to manage these complexities."

EECS faculty have long conducted research in technologies that have shaped the financial industry. Professor John Guttag, head of the department, said, "This partnership will provide a fertile field in which to apply many of the ideas coming out of basic research activities in fields such as machine learning, computer and communications security, the design of complex systems, and the acquisition and analyses of data. We very much look forward to a deep engagement with colleagues in the Sloan School and with the people at Merrill Lynch."


The Media Laboratory, part of the School of Architecture and Planning, will continue its research in novel techniques for electronic commerce and information filtering. "The strides being made in the research of software agents that buy and sell goods and services promise to revolutionize the way we conduct transactions, whether business to business, consumer to business or consumer to consumer," said Media Lab Professor Pattie Maes. "The additional research made possible by this venture will allow the Media Lab to further develop such technologies, as well as research some of the socioeconomic issues involved such as trust, reputation, security and value-based marketing."

Merrill Lynch is one of the world's leading financial management and advisory companies with offices in 43 countries and total private client assets exceeding $1.5 trillion. As an investment bank, it is the top global underwriter and market maker of debt and equity securities and a leading strategic advisor to corporations, governments, institutions and individuals worldwide. Through Merrill Lynch Asset Management, a wholly owned subsidiary, Merrill Lynch operates one of the world's largest mutual fund groups.

A version of this article appeared in the March 10, 1999 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 43, Number 22).

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