Nicholas Venuti of Morgan Stanley's Artificial Intelligence Center of Excellence turned his passion for data science into a career as a bank technologist.
In college, Nicholas Venuti spent years researching ways to extract oil from coffee grounds to make biodiesel fuel. After he graduated and began working at an environmental engineering consultancy, he discovered his true passion: data science.
At the heart of his enthusiasm was machine learning, a type of artificial intelligence (AI) that allows computers to "learn" by recognizing patterns and making inferences based on enormous sets of data.
Today, as a machine-learning engineer and data scientist in Morgan Stanley's AI Center of Excellence (CoE), Venuti is figuring out how to harness the raw power of data and turn it into something useful for traders, financial advisors, and investment bankers.
"In investment banking, the problems are enormously complex, and they're changing all the time," says Venuti, who was the first data scientist to join the AI CoE in 2016. "I always find the work both fun and mentally challenging."
The AI CoE, with operations in Montreal, New York, and London, is an internal body that helps enable and scale the adoption of AI and machine learning across Morgan Stanley by providing tools, consulting, and research services to business units and their IT teams.
As part of the group, Venuti works with every corner of Morgan Stanley's operations, from the financial advisors who work with Wealth Management clients to the traders who deal in complex securities.
The complexity and fast-moving pace of data science attracted Venuti to the field. "It's like trying to solve a big puzzle," he says. "You're constantly looking for relationships and tendencies that help explain the problem you're trying to solve."
A Technologist Charts a Career Path to a Bank
A native of western New York, Venuti studied biomolecular chemical engineering as an undergraduate at North Carolina State University, then worked at an environmental engineering firm, where he built systems that analyzed data on oil and natural-gas projects.
"During that time, I developed a knack for solving our company's data problems and building systems to produce insights from these different data sources," he says. "I found myself wanting to perform more robust analyses and, in turn, started taking online courses to add to my skill set." Those classes deepened his interest in data science and prompted his decision to attend graduate school.
At the University of Virginia, where he earned a master's degree in data science, he worked on a team that helped the school's Religious Studies department synthesize the meaning of words in religious texts.
Upon graduation, he was hired by Morgan Stanley to work on AI, a field at the forefront of how companies around the world are using technology. "I was shocked that right out of school I could be part of such a high-profile group within the company," Venuti says.
Wall Street is a natural place for a data scientist, Venuti says, because investment banks have such robust streams of trading data, as well as a flood of external information coming from news, social media, analyst reports, regulatory disclosures and elsewhere.
Financial markets are as dynamic and competitive as the tech industry, Venuti says. "Every day the environment is changing, and as such, the systems we have to build have to be able to adapt to those changes," he said. "We are competing with other firms all trying to do the same thing, so whenever, you solve a problem, you need to move on to the next one to make sure you stay ahead of the game."
Opportunities to Work on Meaningful Projects
One of Venuti's favorite projects was creating a way for traders of complex mortgage securities to determine the risk of those products at the press of a button.
The AI CoE and their partner strategists within the Structured Products Group used natural-language-processing software to comb through the documents related to the securities and flag them for positive and negative comments. The system they built allows traders to quickly review what all the documents are saying about a specific security. The time-saver was an instant hit with traders.
Finding elegant ways to deploy technology is just one goal of Venuti and his colleagues. Another one is demystifying the work they do so that everyone understands just how much it can enhance their roles. "Some people hear the term 'artificial intelligence' and assume that existing systems will be completely replaced or that their expertise will be supplanted," Venuti says. "Rather, the opposite is true: While AI can help inform the decision-making process, we ultimately need the human touch to make the wisest and most sophisticated choices."
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Below is an article originally written by PowerToFly Partner Morgan Stanley, and published on December 11, 2018. Go to Morgan Stanley's page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.
Keren Ehrenfeld began her career as a summer intern in Morgan Stanley's Toronto offices. 15 years later, she is a Managing Director and finding the room to be herself in a challenging workplace.
On the occasion of Morgan Stanley's Global Women Managing Directors Conference, some of the attendees took the opportunity to discuss challenges, support systems and career trajectories within the firm.
Keren Ehrenfeld is currently responsible for Morgan Stanley's investment grade health care and transportation practice within the Fixed Income Capital Markets group. For her, as in any career, there have been challenges along the way. Karen credits her longevity at the firm to the opportunities she's had to explore her different strengths.
Below is an article originally written by PowerToFly Partner Morgan Stanley, and published on October 4, 2018. Go to Morgan Stanley's page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.
Drawing from her Latina heritage, Claudia Marmolejo has successfully navigated and excelled across both corporate and international cultures, while opening paths for others.
It was the quintessential New York story: In 1994, Claudia Marmolejo arrived from Argentina to study law at Columbia with only $700 and one credit card. With a week before classes started to find a place to live, she rented a shared room in a convent run by nuns on 54th Street and 10th Avenue. It was a bit of a commute to Columbia's upper-Manhattan campus, but "the convent was affordable and safe—complete with an 11 pm curfew," Marmolejo recalls with a laugh.
Yet years later, her career path would bring her back to the same neighborhood and to Morgan Stanley's headquarters, where Marmolejo is now an Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer of the Wealth Management Client Development Group.
"I couldn't anticipate my journey, but in retrospect, I would say that where I am today and the experiences and opportunities I've had are precisely what I had in mind when I decided to come to the U.S. all those years ago."
A Glimpse of a Different Life
As with so many stories, Marmolejo's starts with her family: In 1988, she visited her older sister Andrea who had received a scholarship to study at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. She stayed for a month auditing classes, going to events and meeting students. "It was so different from Argentina, where women were expected to conform to more traditional female roles, like teachers and nurses and eventually housewives and mothers," Marmolejo said of her time in Cambridge, Mass.
"I loved that the female students were fully partaking in the intellectual life on campus, speaking out in classes and leading organizations. That was what I was looking for, the kind of life that I wanted to lead."
One of her favorite expressions is: "If you can see it, you can be it." During that month at Harvard, she saw the life she wanted. "I was determined to return to the U.S.," she says.
Over the next few years, Marmolejo moved with single-minded resolve. She studied law at the University of Buenos Aires, completing her degree in three and a half years, ahead of the typical five. She was then accepted at Columbia's master's program in law. "I loved Columbia. The advanced study, immersion in U.S. jurisprudence and collaboration with so many smart people sharpened my legal skills and prepared me for practicing law in the U.S."
Unfortunately, it didn't prepare her for the tight job market after graduation. Nonetheless, Marmolejo managed to negotiate a six-month contract with a corporate law firm, which led to a full-time associate position. She then grasped that business in Latin America, particularly in Brazil, was taking off. "I realized the value of being fluent in Portuguese and hired an after-hours tutor," she added.
Her multicultural background was attractive to other law firms and investment banks, including Morgan Stanley. Twelve years later, she still feels taking a position with the firm was the best decision she made. "I loved that Morgan Stanley recognized and rewarded talent with greater responsibility," Marmolejo explains, who spent nine years in Wealth Management Legal, before moving into her current role as COO of the Client Development Group.
"Throughout my career, I've moved through various firms and international cultures, and have been able to absorb them quickly," Marmolejo says. "I've learned the value of relationships, of making and deepening connections, and making clients and colleagues feel welcome. I know what it's like to come from the outside, from another industry, and certainly from another culture."
Marmolejo's drive is stronger than ever. She is the Co-Chair of Morgan Stanley's Latino Employee Networking Group (LENG), and was recently named a member of the MAKERS Class of 2018. "When I was asked to co-chair LENG, I felt honored. Being Hispanic is my heritage and a fundamental part of who I am. I jumped at the chance to help inspire fellow Latinos and Latinas with LENG's programming and resources. I am proud to be in a position to advocate for more Hispanic representation at Morgan Stanley," Marmolejo says. Meanwhile, on the MAKERS storytelling platform, "I can share my own journey as a professional and as a Latina."
Marmolejo's contributions to the Hispanic community extend beyond the firm. Since 2015, she has been a trustee of Museo del Barrio in New York City and is a board member of LatinoJustice PRLDEF (formerly the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund), a national civil rights organization that fights discrimination against Latinos through advocacy, litigation and education. She is also a trustee of Xavier University of Louisiana and a member of the board of the nonprofit Turn Around for Children.
"If people can learn from my story, struggles and triumphs, then I feel I've done my job in showing other Latinas, and people overall, that moving up the ladder through hard work and doing your personal best is possible, no matter where you start."