Systematica Founder Leda Braga on Machine Learning: Secrets of My Success

As others debate the question of man versus machine, Leda Braga focuses on the magic in the machines.

The hedge fund industry’s top woman manager attributes her success to using data in a disciplined, consistent way that has allowed her to keep customers happy and establish her place in Wall Street’s boys’ club.

Speaking Wednesday at the Delivering Alpha conference presented by CNBC and Institutional Investor, Braga recalled another similar event when an attendee questioned the wisdom of relying on data to make future investment decisions.

“The guy with discretion has what, a crystal ball?” she said to chuckles. “The algorithmic approach suits itself to certain types of … investment processes,” she said. “At the end of the day, the business of investment management is the business of information management, so the algorithmic process is a very effective way to do it but algorithms can’t replace activists because of the human touch they bring to investments.”

Braga started her own shop this year, Systematica, and has inspired enough confidence to pull in $8.8 billion of investor funds, with solid returns so far this year.

She had previously worked at BlueCrest Capital Management, starting there, Braga related, when she was 34 weeks pregnant.

Braga credited a disciplined approach among her traders, who she said in “a consistent way it doesn’t matter quite so much that you be right at every forecasting point. It does matter that you’re right more than half the time. Then you risk manage your positions very carefully.”

Activist investors, the likes of which populated the stage throughout the day, are good for the market.

“They’re fantastic, those guys,” she said. “They are the heroes, really.”