Alexander Banh (MMAI'20)
Program / Class: Master of Management in Artificial Intelligence, Class of 2020
QUAAF Tenure: October 2019 – Present
QUAAF Position(s): Operations Associate, Director of Business Development, Chief Executive Officer
Tell us about why you decided to do the MMAI instead of a conventional MBA?
The MMAI is the first degree of its kind in the country, if not the continent, and was developed because artificial intelligence is all around us, embedded in the everyday products we use, and has unlimited applications in the business world. The Vector scholarship also made the financial decision very easy.
Early on, I figured out that it was a bit of a losing battle to try and catch up with the technical content when compared to those that came into the program with data science experience. The whole degree is done in teams and you’re with the same people in every course for the duration of the year, so it became an exercise in figuring out what each person on the team is good at, and having them specialize. I wanted to focus on capital markets applications, and while Prof Matt Thompson’s course was a good introduction, I wanted a deeper dive into how capital allocators and asset managers were using this technology, which brought me to QUAAF.
How did you get involved with QUAAF and how did it complement your degree?
One of the former Chief Risk Officers who was wrapping up his MBA when I came in is a friend I’ve known for the better part of a decade. The Queen’s community is quite tight knit, and those relationships last long after your degree. What was particularly appealing about QUAAF was the direct access to an alumni community of 300+ former QUAAF people, which is why I joined the team in a Business Development capacity. The group serves as a gateway into the alternative investments industry, including hedge funds, real estate, and private debt, which are generally glossed over in many curriculums. During my tenure, we created a Data vertical which recruits exclusively from the MMA and MMAI programs and that team ended up building products that automated and enhanced a data-driven approach to investment decision making.
What advice would you have for future MMAI students starting their degrees who may be considering involvement in QUAAF?
Immediately look for ways to apply what you learn in class. Knowing how to clean data, build, tune, and evaluate models, and present the results, are table stakes for any MMAI student. Where you can really differentiate yourself and get a unique learning experience is through experiential learning, and it doesn’t even have to be QUAAF. Find one vertical to which you want to apply your newfound machine learning skills, and dive deep. If you are less technical, like me, QUAAF runs just like a professionally managed fund, and there are opportunities in teams outside Investments and Data where you can develop management skills in Operations, Business Development, Marketing, among others. At any point during your 12 months, there are anywhere from 40 to 60 members in the fund, spread across Toronto, Kingston, and Beijing. Proactively reach out and get to know the whole team.
What’s next for you after graduation?
I am a Principal at Fulcrum Technology Holdings, where we build and hold a selection of investee companies exclusively in the technology sector, and was the inaugural Fulcrum Fellow through which my degree was sponsored. We have recently created a Portfolio Analytics division to bring a new data-driven approach to how we make investment decisions, improve partner company operations, and look at new opportunities. Our two newest members have computer science and analytics backgrounds, which is generally rare in private equity. I will also be staying on the QUAAF team on an unofficial basis, serving as a conduit between students and our constantly growing alumni base.