When does the research we do become research for good? In the first of our Research in the Spotlight series, we talk to Arman Hassanniakalager of the University of Bath School of Management about his research on football betting, and how using statistics can reduce investment risks.
Arman, you joined the School of Management in 2018. What brought you to Bath?
I studied for my PhD in quantitative finance at Glasgow. A job came up at Bath and I applied – I had no idea what it was like beforehand. On my interview day, I had time to explore the city and realised how beautiful it was. So I’m very happy I decided to come here
What are you working on right now?
My core research, where I focus on writing academic papers and targeting ABS journals – that’s statistics.
But I’m also working on gambling, and the risks of betting to consumers – I had a conversation with a colleague a couple of years ago about this area, and we decided to do some work together. We’ve just had a paper published. It’s an area where there hasn’t been much research done or much statistical analysis – it’s a good interdisciplinary research area. Bookies make billions from gambling. It’s sold to customers as entertainment – having a beer and putting a bet on the football makes it more fun – but they don’t understand the real levels of risk, or the amount of profit that bookies are making, and telling people to “gamble responsibly” just isn’t enough.
What have you achieved in your academic career that you’re most proud of?
The paper I mentioned, A Machine Learning Perspective on Responsible Gambling, was published in Behavioural Public Policy which is a Cambridge University Press journal. I felt really proud to see my name on there.
I’m also working on a paper on Artificial Intelligence that’s been through three rounds of review so far. I’m hoping it will be published in the summer and when it finally is published, that will be one of my career highlights so far.
What would you most like to achieve?
A 4* publication! But also my work using statistics could have a big impact on the investment banking industry in the next 10 years. The focus is on multiple hypothesis testing – comparing a big set of alternative outcomes using statistics. In finance, the people who are giving advice are very highly paid. Despite this, there’s still room for human error. The methodology we’re developing replicates human wisdom using statistics, and removes that error factor, thereby making decision making more robust.
It sounds bad to be doing research that might ultimately get rid of jobs, but the social benefit is that pension funds will be spent better. It removes the risk. The methodology can also be applied to other sectors like bioinformatics and economics.
What inspired you to do what you do now?
I used to be a trader myself, but it didn’t work out. But I thought it might work, if I could control the risk. I wanted to understand more about machine learning and its applications to finance – this was the motivation for my PhD which was self-funded. I always wanted to be a trader but the risk was too great so I’ve been looking for that deeper knowledge.
The trouble is, humans aren’t very good at understanding numbers, and our education system doesn’t take financial literacy nearly seriously enough. It’s important to understand about money and investments and how it works – as with the gambling and where the money is actually going. I’ve been doing some charitable work in this area and it’s something I’d like to do more of because I think people really need help.
And finally, what’s your favourite…
I’m currently reading Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahnemann – it’s really good in terms of understanding human psychology. I don’t get fiction!
Jazz - anything as long as it’s jazz.
Chelsea – although when I was a kid it was Real Madrid.
place to visit
I really like the Netherlands – it’s one of the only places I’d consider going to for a job. It’s small but very advanced with very liberal people – and they speak English! At the moment though I’m married to the University of Bath for the next five years – but it’s a good place to be.
place to work
By the lake on my laptop.