Of course, there is both a bright side and a dark side to any radical shift. The shift that Big Data is producing and will continue to produce in society will create winners and losers. Finance and investing will be no different.
Those embracing Big Data and figuring out the best ways to leverage it will capture alpha like never before. The very best of these will in fact become the new Buffets, Soros, and Simons.
The downside is that many, if not most, will continue along the same traditional path. They will follow the inertia of their investment process and hope for better days. They will likely ignore new data and analytical techniques until they are forced upon them.
At this stage, there is risk in all directions. This is exactly what finance guys do not want to hear. Diving into new data and analytics is risky, as is staying out. Really the question becomes which is more risky and at what point do you need to make the decision.
In many cases, it is difficult to fully back-test newer sources of data and concepts due to restrictions on historical data (meaning the data just does not go back very far). Additionally, many of the current datasets are yet to be fully standardized and vetted. Lastly, although academic research is starting to pick apart Big Data in general, it still pales in comparison to the decades of acknowledged research supporting traditional financial data and analysis.
But the other choice of putting your head in the sand at this important turning point in financial history does not appear to be such a low risk move either. Big Data is no longer coming, it is already here. To ignore it at this stage is the real risk.
Naming a company is always a difficult process. Anyone who has gone through it has their own war stories. Hitting seemingly endless “oh, drat they got that name too” moments is way too common.
As for Zettacap, it took a while to get here, but the name is actually fairly meaningful.
“Zetta” implies Big Data—being the unit of measuring data that comes after exa. Most people are familiar with giga, as in a gigabyte. After giga come tera, peta, exa, and then zetta. A zettabyte is approximately one trillion gigabytes (for a really fascinating description of a zettabyte this infographic is worth a look). In other words, it is a ton of data. And—no, we do not have a zettabyte of data—nobody does yet, but most certainly will in our lifetime.
The age of the zettabyte is upon us, however, as evidenced by this study from Cisco that estimates 2016 as the first year that a zettabyte of data is transferred over the internet. Additionally, the same report points out that although the size of data is hitting exceptional levels, its expected growth rate remains in the twenty-plus range. In other words Big is getting bigger.
“Cap” implies finance and investing. Cap can be short for capital, capitalization, and/or capitalize—all terms used alone and in conjunction with other finance terms. Basically it would be difficult to go through a single day at a fund or bank without hearing a form of cap used. It is also fairly common in names, including hedge funds (“Soros Capital Management”) and data provides (“CaptialIQ,” often shortened to CapIQ).
Zetta implies really Big Data, and Cap implies traditional finance.
Zetta+Cap = Big Data for Finance.
For a particularly hilarious commentary on naming hedge funds, refer to the marketfolly blog. At least we avoided the Greek mythology and predatory animal naming themes.