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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.

< The 2016 Tech 50 38 Neal Pawar Chief Technology Officer AQR Capital Management PNR

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 Click below to view profiles
1. Catherine
Bessant
Bank of America Corp. 2. Jeffrey Sprecher Intercontinental Exchange 3. Lance Uggla Markit 4. Phupinder Gill CME Group 5. Shawn Edwards and Vlad Kliatchko Bloomberg 6. R. Martin Chavez Goldman Sachs Group
7. Robert Goldstein BlackRock 8. Adena Friedman Nasdaq 9. Deborah Hopkins Citi Ventures 10. Daniel Coleman KCG Holdings 11. Stephen Neff Fidelity Investments 12. David Craig Thomson Reuters
13. Michael Spencer ICAP 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 R3CEV
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 Numerix 35. Sebastián Ceria Axioma 36. Michael Cooper BT Radianz
37. Tyler Kim MaplesFS 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 eVestment
43. Stephane Dubois Xignite 44. Mazy Dar OpenFin 45. Yasuki Okai NRI Holdings America 46. Kim Fournais Saxo Bank 47. Jock Percy Perseus 48. Robert Schifellite Broadridge Financial Solutions
49. Brian Sentance Xenomorph Software 50. Pieter van der Does Adyen