Blackstone pushes use of data, AI

The alternative asset manager has built an internal data group that collaborates with other units.

Blackstone is betting on the use of data and artificial intelligence as a driver of growth and as a tool for efficiency throughout its business.

“We’re big believers in data,” Tony James, the firm’s president and chief operating officer, said during the firm’s fourth-quarter earnings conference call on Thursday.

“In fact, as we speak, our private equity group – everyone from [global head of private equity] Joe Baratta to the most junior guys – is in Palo Alto attending Singularity University getting steeped in new technologies, technology disruption, use of data and so on and so forth.”

James noted that the firm also has an internal data group, which is now collaborating with all other units to bring big data applications to the investment process, and has begun mining its own portfolio companies for data.

Blackstone is already using artificial intelligence to screen job applicants, he said.

“Having said all that, I think this is a journey that we’re just beginning,” he added. “While we have a team, it will take more than a team. It will take somewhat of a change in culture. It will take education. It affects all of our businesses, not just the investment side of our business, but how we do things internally, including processes.”

James explained the focus on data is also the drive behind the recent acquisition of Thomson Reuters’s financial and risk unit.

Blackstone’s assets under management grew 10 percent during 2017 to $434 billion, including $105.6 billion in private equity. Private equity AUM at the end of 2016 stood at $100.2 billion.