The Harvard economics PhD whiz who is teaching generative AI to invest for everyone

  • From hedge fund managers to retail investors, AI can help inform and speed up the processes that go into successful investing, according to Jan Szilagyi, who recently founded fintech startup Toggle AI.
  • He previously worked for hedge fund billionaire Stanley Druckenmiller, who was Toggle’s first investor, and earned the fastest-ever Harvard economics PhD.
  • AI will “hand time and power back to investors,” Szilagyi tells CNBC ahead of its Financial Advisor Summit.

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Jan Szilagyi is the co-founder of Toggle AI, an AI-fintech startup that uses machine learning to turn institutional-grade data into insights for investors of all stripes. Szilagyi spent most of his career with Stanley Druckenmiller at Duquesne Capital. He was co-CIO of global macro at Lombard Odier and also managed portfolios at Fortress.

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Szilagyi has the record for the fastest-ever Harvard Economics Ph.D. (2.5 years), studying under Ken Rogoff. In addition to his economics Ph.D., Szilagyi holds BA and MA degrees in mathematics and economics from Yale.

Szilagyi recently shared some insights about the potential impact of artificial intelligence on investors and advisors ahead of the CNBC Financial Advisor Summit on June 15.

The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

CNBC: In your mission statement, you state that Toggle was founded on the idea that “investors of all shapes and sizes should have help finding good ideas — making the latest investment technology and insights available to all.” Can you unpack that for us? What is Toggle AI?

Szilagyi: Toggle is a generative AI startup that sits squarely at the intersection of finance and artificial intelligence. We are teaching large language models [LLMs] like ChatGPT how to invest. And instead of hallucinating or going rogue, we teach LLMs to fail gracefully and only stick to data-backed answers. Currently, we’re working on a collaboration with Microsoft’s Cognitive search team to improve access to investment research. By making generative AI easy to access, we believe every investor – institutional traders, hedge fund managers, financial advisors, and retail – will have the resources to ultimately get more time back in their day.

CNBC: Tell us more about the Toggle AI origin story. What were the circumstances that led you and the other founders to believe you had a product that could fill an unmet need for investors?

Szilagyi: Right after I finished my Ph.D. in economics, I went to work for Stanley Druckenmiller at Duquesne [Capital] before eventually becoming co-CIO of Global Macro at Lombard Odier. This is where I met my future co-founder Giuseppe Sette and together we dreamed up an AI-powered market analytics platform that we could chat with as we would a junior analyst, monitor the markets around the clock for us and answer standard investment questions. This idea was really born from our day-to-day work needs where we saw the struggle of keeping up with the ever-mounting piles of financial data.

Toggle AI was really born from observing the ever-mounting flow of financial data that we needed to track. Why not leverage technology to recognize important events and conduct financial analyses for us?

Druckenmiller was among the first who recognized the value of what we were building and offered to support our efforts as our first investor. Thanks to his support, Toggle AI took off with a mission to provide every investor and advisor with powerful AI tools in an easy-to-navigate, chat interface.

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CNBC: You mention Stanley Druckenmiller as an early investor. Are there other large investors, banks, or institutions that have come on board? How does your pitch to them differ from the one you make to retail investors, which seems to be fairly straightforward in terms of what they get for their money? 

Szilagyi: Stan’s support has been instrumental for Toggle AI. Without him, I’m not sure Giuseppe and I would’ve really made the leap to bring our idea to market. After gaining validation and a vote of confidence from Stan, we quickly expanded and have been able to partner with major institutions across the globe. In addition to partnering with Microsoft’s Cognitive Search team, we’ve partnered with Nasdaq, Interactive Brokers, Samsung Securities, Mitsubishi-UFJ, LINE Securities, London Stock Exchange Group, Intercontinental Exchange, and many more banks and investment funds.

CNBC: Part of your offering seems to be a distillation of actionable intelligence. How does AI help facilitate that, and the ability of investors in the community to share ideas?

Szilagyi: AI is incredible at processing massive amounts of data, but recent advances have now made it possible for users to interact with that data in plain language. This is an explosive combo: advisors and investors can unleash powerful analytics with a short natural-language query. Analysts and investors no longer have to learn how to code or manually analyze their ideas.

Toggle initially focused on the construction of a powerful knowledge graph, able to learn about new investment relationships and to evolve through time. We then developed a powerful and intuitive UX to allow users to query the knowledge graph and ask investment questions.

Now we’re training LLMs to invest by enhancing their algorithmic capabilities. We have introduced our chat interface, ToggleChat, capable of utilizing all our best tools to complete sophisticated analyses. This means that investors can “run the machine,” by simply asking questions in plain language, as they would ask a colleague.

Breaking down these barriers enables any investor to find answers to their questions, and share information that’s backed up by real, institutional-grade data. With the right questions and curiosity, anyone can be successful in the market.

CNBC: You mentioned financial advisors — how are you positioned to reach this group specifically? Are there tools developed or being developed that address the specific needs of FAs and RIAs?

Szilagyi: This is a great question. Advisors can leverage our entire suite of products – especially ToggleChat.

Toggle AI can track all holdings in a client’s portfolio, identify what’s causing it to move, provide a narrative around their recent past and possible future trends, and generate a chart that’s ready to send to a client. What used to take an investment associate an hour to complete can now be done in milliseconds. Investors – no matter how big or small – can become exponentially more efficient.

Giuseppe and I experienced the conditions financial advisors frequently face firsthand: often overwhelmed, bogged down, and always wanting more resources. Toggle was conceived to help financial advisors get immediate answers to the most common questions they face every day.

Interestingly enough, we started as a product for institutional investors, but by the time we were ready to build out our office, we also found ourselves in the throes of a global pandemic as well as the retail investor boom. We built new areas of our business, including a retail version of our software while continuing to build out our suite of tools for professional investors.

At the end of the day, the pitch is the same. Toggle AI offers institutional-grade analytics to help you become more efficient. For institutions, it means empowering your analysts, advisors, or brokerage clients to make better, more-informed trading decisions.

CNBC: Where do you see ToggleAI in five years? Ten? It seems like you’re taking on some of the large-scale entrenched incumbents in the financial markets data analytics space – are you angling for a corner of that market or is the dream bigger than that?          

Szilagyi: We’re already at an exciting inflection point for not only Toggle AI but the generative AI industry as a whole. Within five years, the industry will reach universal adoption of LLMs and we are working hard to be at the forefront of this incredible transformation. We’re currently working with a few leading banks on a variety of projects.

We’re not fighting against incumbents, rather we’re working with them to develop working solutions in record time. Our natural niche is the investment floor: we come from the floor, we understand the challenges of money managers and financial advisors, and our ambitious goal is to create the perfect AI that can complement an investment team.

In five years – sooner in fact – we expect to have a fully integrated AI co-pilot capable of helping advisors in major financial institutions invest in any security in the world. Ultimately, we’re always going to be following our mission of leveraging AI to hand time and power back to investors.

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