Alternative Data’s Hard Labor

Faye Kilburn investigates quantitative funds' attempts to sift gold from the torrent of alternative datasets.

Life as a quant at one of the world’s leading factor investors can be a difficult and frustrating experience. At any one time, $74 billion quantitative hedge fund Acadian Asset Management has up to two dozen researchers dedicated to finding new signals in so-called “alternative” datasets—that is, data beyond traditional prices and technical analytics.

These datasets can range from the mundane, like anonymized credit and debit card transaction data and text-based analysis of webpages and social