JPMorgan recruits top academic for AI efforts

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JPMorgan Chase tapped a leading academic to guide its artificial intelligence research efforts.

Manuela Veloso, head of Carnegie Mellon University’s Machine Learning Department, will lead JPMorgan’s AI research team starting in July.

She will report to Sanoke Viswanathan, chief administrative officer of JPMorgan’s corporate and investment bank.

Veloso will also work with the bank's data analytics team and quantitative research teams, and look to collaborate and partner with universities and research institutions.

“In this new role, Manuela will establish an AI research capability at JPMorgan, building on our reputation as Wall Street's leading technology bank,” Viswanathan said in a press release.

Veloso will continue JPMorgan’s focus on applying machine learning technology across its business, efforts that are part of the bank’s $10.8 billion technology budget for the year.

Veloso, who in 2014 was named a Carnegie Mellon University professor, holds the Herbert A. Simon Chair in computer science. She has been honored as an Einstein Chair Professor by the Chinese Academy of Sciences. She is also a past president of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence and of the RoboCup Federation, an international robotics competition.

“We have assembled talented teams to drive innovation in artificial intelligence, blockchain technology, big data, machine learning and bots, with the objectives of improving our efficiency and enabling us to serve more clients with greater effectiveness, depth and sophistication,” Daniel Pinto, the bank’s co-president and head of the corporate and investment bank, said in this year’s shareholder letter.

JPMorgan's new hire reflects the current competitive environment that drives banks to invest in machine learning, said Julie Conroy, research director at Aite Group.

"In this particular area, pulling from academia makes a ton of sense," Conroy said. "Data science resources are hard to come by, and the academic approach coincides very nicely with the practical approach. For instance, you wouldn’t want to bring in a Ph.D. in business strategy to be your new chief strategy officer ... but you have seen some vendors started by former rocket scientists that are doing quite well."

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