Hanlon Family Opens New Finance Lab

With surging interest in the Hanlon Financial Systems Center, Cathy and Sean Hanlon ’80 add new high-tech classroom and lab.

One of the best reasons to study finance at Stevens is about to become two of the best reasons.

In 2012, a gift from John J. “Sean” Hanlon IV ’80 and his wife, Cathy, allowed Stevens to open the Hanlon Financial Systems Lab, a state-of-the-art facility with Bloomberg terminals, real-time and historical market data, and software packages that can conduct trading simulations and develop financial models.

On Oct. 29, Hanlon, a trustee, and his family announced another generous donation that will include funding for a new research and teaching lab to expand the opportunities available to students who study finance at Stevens. The Hanlon Laboratory for Financial Analytics and Data Visualization, which opened in September 2016, features additional Bloomberg terminals and data analysis tools, but has a greater emphasis on data visualization technologies as they apply to finance. This lab is laid out as a series of trading desks, to inspire greater collaboration and further mimic the Wall Street feel of the center. Uniquely, it employs technology from Oblong to provide a collaborative and educational environment unlike any other financial research lab.

“When I joined the board in December of 2010, I said that Stevens was a $25 stock headed to $100,” Hanlon said during a dedication ceremony. “I’m here to tell you that it has exceeded $100 a share, and if you will permit me the Wall Street metaphor, I’m going to up my target price. Stevens is headed for $500 per share.”

Finance is a major driver of the optimism surrounding the future of Stevens. A significant percentage of Stevens graduates go on to careers in finance, and the demand for professionals who understand both finance and the technology rapidly disrupting is hard to overstate: The undergraduate degree in Quantitative Finance, for instance, has a 100 percent six-month placement rate, with many of those graduates getting multiple job offers.

EXCEEDING EXPECTATIONS

Daniela Cardona, a junior in the Quantitative Finance program, spent last summer as an intern in the investment management division at Goldman Sachs. Next summer, she’ll be an intern in the global investment banking program of RBC, and she credits the relevance of her Stevens coursework with helping her get in-demand assignments.

“I didn’t want to attend a traditional business school — I wanted a technology focus and I wanted a business focus, and the Quantitative Finance program at Stevens did just that for me,” Cardona said during the event. “I would not be where I am if it weren’t for this program.”

Stevens President Nariman Farvardin said he’s excited about the possibilities the second lab will create for more students like Cardona and Dakota Wixom, another Quantitative Finance student who spoke at the event.

The first lab “has exceeded every one of my expectations,” Dr. Farvardin said. “This laboratory has been the catalyst for advancing the university’s strength and visibility in this critically important area.

“There are some other universities with facilities somewhat similar to this … but I guarantee there is no university on the face of this planet that has a facility like this with this kind of view.”

The lab’s dramatic view of the Manhattan skyline is representative of the opportunities it creates for students and faculty researchers to directly connect to industry for internships, jobs, networking, guest lectures, and consulting and research projects.

CONNECTIONS TO INDUSTRY, WALL STREET

“Our opportunity for success comes from industry across the river,” said Dr. George Calhoun, director of the Hanlon Financial Systems Center. “It has undergone an upheaval. … The New York Stock Exchange, 10 years ago, it had 87 percent market share. Today it’s about 20 percent, because they fell behind the technology curve. That’s driving this industry to Stevens, to find the things we’re good at — quantitative methods, computer science, engineering.”

The new facility, which will open on the ground floor of the Babbio Center, “is going to be unique in the country,” Calhoun said. “We’re creating the next step, the momentum to move into topics like data analytics and data visualization that weren't on the agenda just five, six years ago.”

That momentum is especially strong on the graduate side. This fall, the School of Business launched a master’s degree in Finance with a unique curriculum that teaches the traditional financial disciplines through the lens of technology — part of the way the school keeps the innovative, problem-solving DNA of Stevens in its programs. Stevens also offers an MBA in finance and a master’s in Financial Engineering, among others.

“Sean Hanlon’s support of finance and financial engineering programs at Stevens has been transformative,” said Dr. Khaldoun Khashanah, director of the Financial Engineering program at Stevens. “It has elevated Stevens nationally to compete in finance and financial engineering, both intellectually and practically, with great impact.”

And it’s all happened at an unbelievable pace, said Dr. George Korfiatis, university provost.

“If you go back no more than six, seven years, finance and financial engineering were not here,” Dr. Korfiatis said. “Our programs have shot up in rankings, our students are sought after by the best of the best, and it’s all because a group of people — led by Sean and Cathy — came together and made it happen. And the catalyst is this facility, and the new one that you have made happen.”

(This story first appeared on the Stevens website on October 29, 2015.)