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Move Over, Black Boxes: Brains Are Back

Wall Street Journal – Quantitative fund managers, who use computer models rather than human judgment to pick securities, have seen their world turned upside down by the credit crisis.

The first generation of managers and their models have moved on: Their inheritors are having to accommodate a changed landscape full of skeptical investors. In reaction, quant managers have spent 2008 making adjustments to their models, finding new sources of data and tightening secrecy.

Asset managers, in general, are facing tough times, but stock-picking is at least a familiar and well-worn concept for investors. They may not always be happy with their human asset managers, but they are continuing to talk to them. The so-called black boxes that carry out the complex strategies of quantitative funds, on the other hand, are increasingly out of favor with investors and investment consultants.

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