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Quant fund to use NASA know-how


While John Glenn is making news for NASA as the oldest man to travel into space, a new fund adviser in Los Angeles is hoping that a NASA scientist will make news for its new small-cap quant fund.

The fund, the Alpha Analytics Small Cap Quant Fund, is part of a new no-load fund family, the Alpha Analytics Investment Trust, that also includes the Alpha Analytics Value Fund.

Robert E. Gipson is president of the trust, and he has chosen John M. Gipson, his brother and a NASA scientist, to manage the small-cap quant fund. Robert Gipson is not only hoping that his brother's experience in quantitative analysis will help the small-cap fund come up with good stock ideas, but also that his brother's scientific accomplishments will serve as a marketing tool.

John Gipson received his Ph.D. in theoretical physics from Yale in 1982, and since 1992 he has worked as a senior scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. He has also worked as a financial consultant.

"We're very, very interested in what he can do," Robert Gipson said. According to a registration statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, John Gipson will use a "computer-driven quantitative investment model... to evaluate stocks based on value and momentum indicators."

Robert Gipson admits that with the recent stock market volatility, it is a bad time to start a quantitative or any other kind of fund. But, he says he is not worried about the short term. The Alpha Analytics Value Fund will be managed by Cambiar Investors of Englewood, Calif., a subsidiary of United Asset Management Corp.

Robert Gipson said that a quantitative fund is good for investors in that computers can come up with ideas and information that a human alone could not. But what people bring to the stock picking process is just as important, he added

"The computer is very good at some things," Gipson said. "We just mean, you have to understand what it can do and not rely on what it can't do. But the computer can help you find things you normally can't."

Gipson says that his brother's engineering background makes him a very conservative investor. Gipson himself has been managing money for wealthy families and his own family for 20 years. This is his first foray into the fund business.

American Data Services of Hauppauge, N.Y., will be the fund's distributor. The minimum initial investment is $5,000 ($2,000 for an IRA), and each subsequent investment must be $250.