The hard labour in profiting from alternative data

Quant fund spending on fresh data will pass $7 billion by 2020, yet most attempts to use it fail

Life as a quant at one of the world’s leading factor investors can be a difficult and frustrating experience.

At any one time, $74 billion quantitative hedge fund Acadian Asset Management has up to two dozen researchers dedicated to finding new signals in so-called “alternative” datasets – that is, data beyond traditional prices and technicals.

These datasets can range from the mundane, like anonymised transactional data from debit and credit cards and text-based analysis of webpages and socia