Media Room

Q&A: Joe Mako of Rosenblatt Securities on the Role of Data Visualization

Monday, December 12, 2011


How have your early career experiences shaped your view of the industry?

I began by looking for better ways to accomplish data-related tasks and found software like Tableau. My experience tells me there is room for growth and development in helping people better understand their data, both in tools and services.

How did you get involved the financial services business? What attracted you to the industry?

In my spare time, I would work with other people’s data situation, and help them come to a solution on public forums. I’ve been a huge contributor on the Tableau Support Forum, posting over 3,200 times. The data I worked with included financial data and any other kind of data people needed help producing results with. Scott [Burrill, of Rosenblatt Securities] saw the work I was doing and approached me off-line. I am attracted to the large amount of data in this industry, and the fast rate that it is produced since so much of it happens in real-time; it will be a new experience for me.

Describe some of the challenges you faced at S2 Statistical Solutions, and the successes that you achieved.

At S2 we primarily worked with medical data, and the amount of records to data mine can be quite large. I worked with a great team and we worked with large data daily. I enjoyed taking large data tables and making interactive dashboards that allowed people to easily get answers to more questions.

How did your experiences at S2 influence your career path – did they spark your interest in the data management environment?

S2 was the first place where my job was dedicated to working with data, and enabled me to develop my skills. I first discovered my passion for data visualization while working for Windstream on a data integration project to increase the data quality. Being able to see the increased revenue from accurate records was a joy.

What attracted you to the role at Rosenblatt Securities?

Rosenblatt Securities is well known for their integrity, market structure expertise, and analytic rigor. Rosenblatt has built a powerful cloud and grid computing environment that is really just starting to bear fruit after three years of stealth development. They are storing an enormous amount of tick data in-memory and then into a custom-made database in Amazon EC2. Scott told me about some of the interesting predictive analytic approaches he and his team were working on and how important the visualization was at accelerating those into solutions and product.

In addition to exciting internal product to help create, there is consulting the firm does either as part of its market structure, FinTech investment banking practice or analytic and bespoke work Scott does. Those consulting and bespoke solutions are provided to some of the largest and most respected names in the financial industry world-wide. That’s a tremendous platform. I also have a platform to develop advanced Tableau and data visualization seminar work, something Scott and I very much want to do.

How do you think visualization will help investors identify and exploit new investment opportunities?

It accelerates the process. I believe a good visual representation of data enables humans to make comparisons between numbers faster than a table of numbers. A glance at a chart can give you more actionable information, while a table of numbers can give you the precise values. Specifically, I have heard Scott describe how by employing visualization techniques on their own or embedding them back into models can preserve and produce alpha.

How will your career experiences help you to tackle the challenges in your current role? What skills do you bring with you to the business?

I have experience working with both internal and external clients, and the ability to quickly ramp up and produce insight with nearly any data set. I enjoy a challenge, and working within constraints enables me to be creative in finding an optimal solution. I have a diverse experience with many technologies that enable me to adapt in fast moving situations.

Which part of your career do you feel has been most rewarding thus far?

The spare time I have invested in learning by helping, and gaining meaningful practice experience on the internet forums has been the most valuable to me, both for the wonderful people I have gotten to know and the professional development gained.

How do you see the future of data visualisation for trading developing over the next five years? What part will Rosenblatt have to play in this environment?

I am new to the industry, but as I understand it, the groundwork has been laid by creating massive infrastructure to handle large and vast amounts of data. This naturally leads to predictive analytics and visualization. I envisage there will be many more data scientists with visual analytic skills employed in the financial industry to serve traders and trading.

Visual tools can assist dramatically from idea creation, execution and analysis, and then feeding those insights back into the whole framework. It helps set context and structure. It’s the only way to support so much data. Rosenblatt is doing that right now. Visualization along with the underlying cognitive engineering that goes into it is where I see the most changes coming.

Rosenblatt is a thought leader and innovator in this space and I hope to contribute by creating product that builds upon their foundation. I know some products in development are trader mapping, algorithm mapping, enhanced post trade analysis tools, and a lot of ideas around alpha creation and preservation. Scott also has a strong interest in Twitter/social media right now and whether it can be applied consistently to improve trading results. I am sure we will look at that to see if it’s signalling or noisy for trading. Just as our business model has evolved through the years, we will create our future by innovating and serving our clients well.

What keeps you up at night – what concerns you in the industry at the moment?

My main concern in data transformation and visualization is accurate data; all too often I see charts that display data in deceptive or inaccurate ways. I do not enjoy charts that value emotion and biased story over accurate representations.

What is the most innovative and groundbreaking change that you have seen in your time in the financial services industry?

I am just starting out in the financial services industry, the most fascinating thing I am looking forward to learning more about is algorithmic trading, the terminology and its effect on the industry.

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