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The 2016 Tech 50: Neal Pawar

The CTO of AQR Capital Management debuts on our annual Tech 50 ranking at No. 38.

Neal Pawar
Chief Technology Officer
AQR Capital Management

The “AQR” in AQR Capital Management stands for “applied quantitative research,” reflecting the foundation of the Greenwich, Connecticut–based firm and its strategies in investment theory and philosophy. Though relying heavily on quantitative analysis, AQR managing principal Clifford Asness, his co-founders and the senior team they assembled were not computer scientists in the mold of, say, D.E. Shaw & Co.’s David Shaw. Two years ago they got their computer scientist when Pawar joined as an AQR principal and chief technology officer. “Assets under management were growing rapidly,” and tech priorities were geared toward “time-to-market, or meeting the needs of the growing business,” recalls Pawar, 44, whose background includes 11 years at D.E. Shaw. “I had the luxury of being able to step back,” devoting his first three months to gaining an understanding of the organization and its technology and, in keeping with AQR’s collaborative and transparent culture, conferring with the executive committee on the transformational road map. Pawar says he didn’t have a completely clean slate — legacy models and processes had to be accommodated — but, handed the rare opportunity to staff up and rebuild a major investment management platform, he was able to instill “the flavor of a start-up.” With a total of 645 employees, AQR has more than 200 technologists, both full-time and consultants. Wanted: “people who are hands-on and love to code,” says Pawar, who grew up in the U.K. and India and started coding at age ten on a Sinclair ZX Spectrum before earning an undergraduate degree in computer science from Brown University. After graduating in 1994 he was hired as a programmer at high-tech Chicago derivatives brokerage O’Connor & Associates. Between 2000 and 2014 he served as co–chief information officer at D.E. Shaw and CIO at UBS Wealth Management (overseeing a few thousand engineers and a $1 billion tech budget). This was appropriate preparation for AQR, which started in 1998 and as of March 31 this year had $153.6 billion in assets under management, both traditional and alternative. (It ranked No. 3 in the Hedge Fund 100 of Institutional Investor’s Alpha, with $47.2 billion; D.E. Shaw was No. 7, with $33.1 billion.) Pawar brings a fresh perspective to the question of whether to build proprietary technology or buy from the outside: “Build where it truly differentiates the firm. We are constantly evaluating buy versus build, especially in a rapidly growing fintech space.”

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The 2016 Tech 50

1. Catherine
Bank of America Corp.
2. Jeffrey Sprecher
Intercontinental Exchange
3. Lance Uggla
4. Phupinder Gill
CME Group
5. Shawn Edwards and Vlad Kliatchko
6. R. Martin Chavez
Goldman Sachs Group
7. Robert Goldstein
8. Adena Friedman
9. Deborah Hopkins
Citi Ventures
10. Daniel Coleman
KCG Holdings
11. Stephen Neff
Fidelity Investments
12. David Craig
Thomson Reuters
13. Michael Spencer
14. Michael Bodson
Depository Trust & Clearing Corp.
15. Charles Li
Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing
16. Chris Concannon
BATS Global Markets
17. Blythe Masters
Digital Asset Holdings
18. David Rutter
19. Neil Katz
D.E. Shaw & Co.
20. Lee Olesky
Tradeweb Markets
21. Richard McVey
MarketAxess Holdings
22. Seth Merrin
Liquidnet Holdings
23. Robert Alexander
Capital One Financial Corp.
24. Brad Katsuyama
IEX Group
25. Antoine Shagoury
State Street Corp.
26. David Gledhill
DBS Bank
27. Lou Eccleston
TMX Group
28. Andreas Preuss
Deutsche BÖrse
29. Dan Schulman
PayPal Holdings
30. Scott Dillon
Wells Fargo & Co.
31. Mike Chinn
S&P Global Market Intelligence
32. Craig Donohue
Options Clearing Corp.
33. Gary Norcross
Fidelity National Information Services
34. Steven O'Hanlon
35. Sebastián Ceria
36. Michael Cooper
BT Radianz
37. Tyler Kim
38. Neal Pawar
AQR Capital Management
39. David Harding
Winton Capital Management
40. Chris Corrado
London Stock Exchange Group
41. Brian Conlon
First Derivatives
42. Jim Minnick
43. Stephane Dubois
44. Mazy Dar
45. Yasuki Okai
NRI Holdings America
46. Kim Fournais
Saxo Bank
47. Jock Percy
48. Robert Schifellite
Broadridge Financial Solutions
49. Brian Sentance
Xenomorph Software
50. Pieter van der Does

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