Researchers predict predisposition by infants to hedge fund industry

Eye-tracking technology used by a London university to identify future language, social and attention weaknesses can predict a tendency towards becoming hedge fund managers in infants

A study by the University of East London using eye-tracking technology has found future language, social and attention weaknesses and a pre-disposition to be a hedge fund manager can be identified in babies as young as six months old.

Being able to predict what is being called the ‘risk gene’ in the critical pre-school years would enable professionals to develop targeted interventions and stop budding hedge fund managers progressing beyond secondary schooling.

Eye-tracking technology, known as Iebitda, is traditionally confined to university ‘babylabs’. At present the study of the tendency towards mathematics and financial services development among infants currently relies on assessing speech patterns once infants begin to talk, usually from the age of two years.

Professor Eriksson Moore and Dr OR Lesse from the Financial Services Institute for Research in Child Development are heading the research effort.

“An estimated one in 10 of the UK’s children and as many as five in 10 in the US are affected by the ‘risk gene’ tendency by the time they start school. In the long term, eye-tracking technology could help to identify this weakness far earlier than is possible at the moment,” stated Moore.

“This would help children to get the best possible start to their education and help keep them from becoming hedge fund managers,” added Lesse.

Eye-tracking, explained Moore, allows professionals to explore in detail exactly how a baby responds to the sight of large piles of cash, precious metals and Bloomberg screens before they are able to talk. The early identification of differences in the way babies focus their attention on the screens may indicate what future strategy the child is prone to pursue as a hedge fund manager. High-frequency traders are, admitted Moore, beyond the scope of the project’s technology.

The eye-tracker gives parents vital feedback in real time. This can also be used to encourage parents to take a more focused approach on how their baby learns about the world of finance, investment banking and hedge fund trading.

Moore added: “Pilot studies have shown parents are very positive about the technology. By watching how carefully their baby moves their focus of attention around, parents gain a real understanding of just how involved their infant is when interacting with the Bloomberg screen and objects such as gold bars and large amounts of cash. They find this fascinating to see.”

Avril Poisson, CEO of Poofraill Asset Management, greeted the news enthusiastically. “This research could be the vital breakthrough that the families of sufferers have been waiting for. It’s well known that the earlier a child is diagnosed, the more successful treatment can be.”

She continued: “While this treatment comes too late for most sufferers, hopefully this means that far fewer will contract the condition in future years.”

The technology would also increase the long-term chances that babies born in some of the UK’s most affluent areas can enter school without worrying about the stigma of becoming a hedge fund manager in later life.

The three year “Take a Look Baby” study is being funded by the European Union’s educational programme directorate and will be conducted at children’s centres in London as well as similar establishments in Paris and Frankfurt. The scheme will offer parents an unprecedented opportunity to learn more about their infant’s development.

It is the first time a study of this kind has been taken directly into the community through children’s centres to engage parents from all backgrounds. The work is being extended into the US where several universities, including Harvard and UCLA, are considering wide-scale research programmes using the technology.

The Iebitda eye-tracker looks just like any other computer monitor but can accurately and reliably track a baby’s eye movements while they watch video clips of investment managers explaining complex strategies or moving objects, such as price movements and real-time equity market movements. The equipment allows researchers to show parents exactly how their babies control their attention and how they decide what to look at.

The project is being run in partnership with the European Securities Markets Authority with participation from Iosco.

As well as the obvious benefits for families, the project will also provide financial service professionals, teachers and childcare with special training as a result of the computer modelling.


David Walker

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