Level E Research is a technology company that specialises in Artificial Intelligence (AI), a discipline of computer science devoted to the creation of intelligent systems that work and react like humans. What makes Level E Research unique is that is has built a fully autonomous investment management platform, the E-platform, based on new technologies such as robotics, artificial intelligence and Machine Learning (ML), a subset of AI which gives computers the ability to learn behaviours from vast quantities of data and subsequently make intelligent decisions.
The E-platform encompasses a disruptive and innovative technology designed as a Multi-Sided-Platform (MSP) model. Platforms represent a big change in the way industries have traditionally been organised. And first mover advantage is important in an environment where the winner often takes all. Companies like Apple, Google, Amazon and Alibaba have used the platform model to grow exponentially and grab significant market share from established firms. MSP is a different architecture that allows both; Side A and Side B to interact and transact. The E-platform is an MSP where Side A can be represented by n number of Asset Managers and/or Funds or Managed Accounts, and Side B by any number Service Providers such as Administrators, Prime Brokers, Custodians and so on. These two can interact directly as well as through the platform.
The E-platform has been designed and developed to autonomously run investment strategies and processes. The architecture is modular, where each module performs separate and specifics functions within the overall investment process. Core to the system is the AI Signal Engine (AISE),that uses AI and ML for strategy creation and signal generation. The AISE is a team of robots that learn continuously from market data to generate a stream of investment signals that drive investments. Once an investment decision has been made, the Order Management System (OMS), provides automatic management and monitoring of orders and trades, both historically and in real-time. Orders can be placed directly into the market by clients or via the Execution Management System (EMS). A Portfolio Management System (PMS), provides a comprehensive analysis of the portfolio and performance metrics, including reporting to effectively communicate with stakeholders and investors. Other modules include a Risk Management System (RiMS), a Reporting Management System (ReMS), that includes regulatory reports, and a Mobile Monitoring Application (MoMA) that provides real-time access to the E-platform from any mobile device.
The E-platform went live in December 2019, and it is in use today supporting over GBP £6 million of assets under servicing for clients.
The development of the company started in 1995 with academic research at the University of Edinburgh’ School of Informatics led by the company founder Dr Sonia Schulenburg during her PhD in Artificial Intelligence. The University of Edinburgh is one of the world’s 20 highest ranked Universities, and its School of Informatics ranked 15th in the World in the latest Research Excellence Framework with prominent research staff and alumni including Geoffrey Hinton, considered by many as the Godfather of Deep Learning, currently working for Google (Google Brain) and the University of Toronto, and co-recipient of the Turing Prize in 2018. The School of Informatics is considered world leading in specialised fields of study such as artificial intelligence, natural language processing and theoretical computer science.
We are committed to autonomous investing. In parallel to autonomous driving, which started in 90s with academic research grants such as the European Union’s Prometheus project and later on progressed after the year 2000 with DARPA’s Grand Challenge research projects, the founder’s efforts towards the development of autonomous investing started in 1994 with academic research in the area of Artificial Intelligence (AI) applied to financial modelling, and include dozens of research papers, a PhD and highly competitive research grants awarded by the European Union, the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Scottish Enterprise and the UK Government, amongst others.
From the initial phase of the academic research, in 2010 the work progressed to applied research, creating Level E Capital SICAV plc, a European, fully regulated investment vehicle to host the technical infrastructure required and apply the AI research developed. The objective was to implement a large-scale live trading pilot that was backed by one of Europe’s largest investment firms. The goal was to create the technology required to apply and test the research through a fund trading in a live market environment. This pilot phase of development ran for three years under Level E Capital and continued to test a fully operational autonomous investment process in a low volatility mandate for six years, from 2013 to 2019. Then after successfully delivering the pilot and operational phases, in December 2019 Level E Capital launched the Global AI Opportunities Fund, which is open to qualifying and professional investors only, is highly scalable, and offers daily liquidity.
In December 2018 Level E Research was established to take forward the development and commercialisation of the E-platform. Today Level E Research is a team of eight people. Four are key experts in Artificial Intelligence applied to investment management and four are industry experts. The E-platform offers a range of active and passive strategies, including the AI Opportunities Strategies, AI Constrained, AI Managed and the Global Asset Allocation Strategies. Investment decisions recommended by the platform are available as a set of ‘signals’ to be used directly or indirectly by investors, funds and asset allocators.
Level E Research is now planning the next stage of its business development. This includes building our client base and further developments of the E-platform, in particular making the AI explainable so that asset managers and investors can develop trust in autonomous systems and it can provide the information needed to support the clear and effective governance. In addition, we will begin to incorporate ESG factors into the system so that these become embedded in the signal generation used to drive investment decisions.
Level E has set up two core teams: a technical team and an industry team.
The technical team is led by Dr. Sonia Schulenburg and it consists of researchers at the PhDs and Post-Doctoral level, which combined with Level E’s close ties with the University of Edinburgh, places the business at the global forefront of Informatics and machine learning research worldwide. The team was based at the University’s Edinburgh Technology Transfer Centre (ETTC) during the early years of R&D, and has worked together for over a decade developing research, self-learning systems, trading infrastructure, connectivity, Direct Market Access (DMA), quant analysis tools, predictive modelling, risk management systems and full reporting solutions.
The technical team is responsible for the implementation and R&D component of the E-platform that is central to the operations and research stage of the product pipeline of Level E Research. The team has proven record in AI and ML and the members are qualified professionals with industry experience with a minimum qualification of a PhD and Post-Doctoral level. The team is highly experienced in quantitative disciplines, machine learning, distributed processing and financial modelling, all with a minimum experience of 14 years in industry, R&D and/or software development.
The team’s strong track record in academic and applied research spans over twenty years; it includes a number of international publications of research papers as well as competitive grants such as SMART, SCIS, SPUR, Proof of Concept, Royal Society of Edinburgh Enterprise Fellowship and Edinburgh Technology Fund.
The industry team is led by Paul North and is responsible for the management of the company and for liaising with clients, financial sector experts, regulators and banks, which is also part of the R&D roadmap. The industry team consists of five people and each contributes with a unique set of skills, such as financial services and portfolio manager roles, to work with a range of institutional fund managers to assist in the development of the services and strategies under the E-platform. In doing this, the team works with the technical team to define the data requirements, to train and test the AI robots and back-test the strategies.
Short Bios of Key Management Staff:
Sonia Schulenburg, Founder, Director and CEO.Sonia holds a PhD in Artificial Intelligence from the University of Edinburgh, a BEng in Computer Engineering from Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México, a Professional Certificate in Accounting from the University of California, San Diego and a Postgraduate Degree in Corporate Strategy and Finance from Edinburgh Napier University. Her PhD thesis is in Evolving Artificial Traders for Successful Market Trading. Sonia was awarded the Santa Fe Institute Computational Modelling and Complexity Fellowship in 1999 and a Royal Society of Edinburgh Enterprise Fellowship in 2006.
Paul North,Director and Head of Business Development. Paul was Head of Product Management across the EMEA region within BNY Mellon Asset Servicing and previously a partner at Accenture. In this roles Paul had responsibility for overseeing the enhancement and development of products that support clients across the 107 countries in the EMEA region. Paul holds an honours degree in Mechanical Engineering from Imperial College of Science and Technology.
Alastair MacLeod, Head of Investment Solutions at Level E Research. Alastair has three decades of experience in global financial markets including work at Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank and as a Portfolio Manager at Ivory & Sime, RiverCrest Capital, Marble Bar and Lansdowne Partners.
Mark Calvert, IT and Security Manager. Mark has an extensive track record in the IT industry with roles as Sales Manager and Account Manager for over 20 years at leading companies such as Nokia, Aerohive Networks and Blue Coat Systems. He has earned Sales Award 2004 by Nokia Circle of Excellence and Blue Coat President’s Club in 2011.