The exceptional European VP with a special task at Goldman Sachs in NY

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It’s a common complaint of technologists in investment banks that they don’t progress as steadily in their careers as front office investment bankers or traders. In technology, so the story goes, you reach vice president (VP) level and there you sit until you quit or retire or are informed that you’re surplus to requirement. If this is the future for Christos Boutsidis at Goldman Sachs there’s little sign of it so far. Since joining Goldman in June 2015, Boutsidis has smoothly gone from associate to VP and engendered a piece of technology that underpins many of the firm’s aspirations for the future.

Boutsidis is the progenitor of Goldman Sachs’ ‘Pythia’ technology. Seemingly pronounced like the pith in fruit, Pythia is all about mapping the connections between different people and entities at Goldman so as to understand the links between them. Boutsidis’ creation pulls in everything from trade and transaction data to emails, voice calls and Bloomberg chats. “We are building the ‘‘Goldman Sachs Social Graph”, boasts Boutsidis on his own website. “Our work involves combining multiple sources of structured and unstructured data into a single, highly heterogeneous, social network.”

This matters, because as you’ll already know if you’ve been watching closely, both Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan have opened a new front in the battle for technological supremacy: the internal search engine. At Goldman Sachs, the internal search engine is called Neon. And Boutsidis’ Pythia functionality, plus a pattern-matching system called Raven, help to underpin it.

The surveillance analytics group at Goldman Sachs

It’s worth noting that neither Boutsidis himself nor the developers who came up with Neon are working in a front office technology team at GS. Both are working in Goldman’s surveillance analytics group, which is part of the firm’s 300+ person compliance technology function. Surveillance analytics comprises a team of over 50 people tasked with applying artificial intelligence and natural language processing to the firm’s data in an effort to sniff out regulatory infringements. Arguably, it’s one of the most exciting technology teams at the firm.

In a measure of the interesting work done by the surveillance analytics team, Neon has escaped from the confines of compliance surveillance and is now being applied more broadly across GS. The project was selected for support by Goldman’s internal incubator Accelerate in March 2019, and is now being used to power the search engine on Marquee, the all-important platform allowing clients to access SecDB, Goldman’s risk and pricing engine, directly.   

What does it take to get into surveillance analytics? Boutisidis has a PhD in computer science from the Greek Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute. He’s worked for the research groups at IBM and Yahoo and completed a quantitative ‘internship’ at Worldquant, the quantitative hedge fund that was spun out of Millennium Management. By our reckoning he’s now nearly 40 years old.

Photo by Drew Graham on Unsplash.

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