Tech Analyst Leaves Wells Fargo to Lead AI Research Startup

(Bloomberg) -- Veteran technology analyst Ken Sena is betting robots will play a big role in Wall Street research.

Sena has left Wells Fargo & Co., where he covered companies like Inc. and Alphabet Inc., to lead a new startup that uses artificial intelligence to produce stock research.

Sena launched a test service called Aiera using this technology last year while he was at Wells Fargo, becoming a pioneer in this new corner of Wall Street. He announced on Thursday that he’s now chief executive officer of Aiera Inc., the startup of the same name.

"What we’re trying to do with a product like Aiera is help the fundamental analyst with some of these advances in data and compute," Sena said. "As we look to the next two to five years, I think the industry is going to be very different."

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Aiera was the brainchild of Sena and Bryan Healey, who worked on the AI behind Amazon’s digital assistant Alexa. Aiera’s software scans more than 300,000 documents a day and almost 5,000 news sources, according to the startup’s website. The system now covers more than a thousand stocks and makes hundreds of recommendations with one- to three-month durations, Sena said.

One such Aiera call was a downgrade of Facebook Inc. shares to sell on Oct. 6, while Sena was still at Wells Fargo. The stock soared following the call, but the shares have plunged this year and Aiera made more sell recommendations before those declines, Sena said. Facebook is now trading less than 1 percent above the Oct. 6 closing price.

Aiera has begun offering services directly to institutional investors. It has six employees and demand has been "very strong," Sena said. He declined to say how many customers the company has.

"For the fundamental analyst, a lot of what gets done day to day, you can see where these automation tools can play a big part," said Sena. "I’m excited about what it can do for research and I think that research needs it."

Sena spent more than a decade on Wall Street. Prior to Wells Fargo, he worked at Evercore ISI, Credit Suisse, Bear Stearns and Salomon Smith Barney. Lylah Holmes, a spokeswoman for Wells Fargo, declined to comment.

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