“It forced me to rethink the possibility of starting my own company,” Hu recalled. “I really appreciated many of my co-workers’ encouragement and help at the start of the company; without their recommendations, I wouldn’t have had the chance to bring Credit Suisse as my first client. This was a very important step for me and RiskVal.”
Hu’s road to success in the financial industry began when he received his master’s degree in computer science with a focus on Unix systems and distributed computing in 1989, when the job market was still very poor due to the 1987 stock market crash, especially for foreign students. Since he had taken applied math as an undergraduate, Hu also took three semesters of numerical analysis, which enabled him to combine computer science and math skills in financial engineering — key skills for his future professional and entrepreneurship career. His most memorable moment as an NJIT student was when the paper that he was working on with Professor Yi-Ling Chiang was published.
“NJIT’s computer science department has very strong faculty, and courses are well designed such that I could easily find the courses which met my study goals,” he said.
“I love NJIT; it gave me the opportunity to study in the U.S.,” he continued. “Many of my friends warned me that the NJIT campus was not in a safe neighborhood, but the affordable tuition and great job opportunities were the reasons I decided to come to NJIT for my graduate studies. NJIT is close to New York City, which is the financial center of the world. Also there was AT&T Bell Labs in Holmdel, N.J., where many alumni of the college are working, and it is the world’s leading technology center. Studying at NJIT gave me access to both the financial and technology mainstream. I still highly recommend students to come study at NJIT.”
His NJIT degree enabled him to land his first job at Salomon Brothers, which he was “very lucky” to find without too much difficulty.
“I was in Salomon Brothers’ IT department working on a project called “TP21” (Technology Platform for 21st century),” he said “Salomon Brothers was investing a lot of money to migrate their existing mainframe technology to desktop technology. This effort requires a lot of Unix skill programmers. I was lucky to be selected.”
An Irreplaceable Solution
In 2001, Hu founded RiskVal with a goal of providing fixed-income financial industry Software as a Service (SaaS) for pre-trade analytics, which were not available at that time. Most financial firms build their proprietary solution in-house, which is very costly and time-consuming.
RiskVal’s story began in 1998, when Hu spent three years building up a team for their first client, Credit Suisse, in order to create a customized, next-generation fixed-income trading platform for them. Building this solution laid out the groundwork for RiskVal as a company.
In 2001, they decided that the time was right to establish RiskVal as a completely self-funded start-up company with a main office in New York City and less than 10 employees. Hu was determined to bring together talents from Wall Street and academia to create a front-office trading solution using the Internet Application Service Provider (ASP) model. In the same year, they announced their first product, an ASP solution called RiskVal Relative Value Fixed-Income (RVFI). It was a revolution in the financial market, because at that time most firms were still trying to build in-house solutions, which is the costliest and most time-consuming way for any financial company to utilize solutions.
“I was very lucky to have my first endorsement from one of the largest private companies in North America, Cargill, to leverage RVFI when it was launched,” Hu recalled. “We worked together with them so that they could immediately leverage our solution.”
As Cargill’s success story spread around the industry, many banks and fund managers became interested in RiskVal, and brought the solution to their trading desk as a supplement to their existing trading strategies. Over time, RiskVal built up around 200+ different trading strategies along with 15+ years of high-quality historical data, such that traders can use it to do more than just validate the live market, making RVFI the only off-the-shelf trading analytics solution in the market. Both buy-side and sell-side traders started to recognize RVFI as an irreplaceable solution to their desks. By 2005, RiskVal had the solution deployed across the globe.
On November 29, 2017, Hu received the 26th annual Overseas Entrepreneurs Award organized by the National Association of Young Entrepreneurs, a public policy nonprofit founded in 1972 and headquartered in Taiwan. The Overseas Entrepreneurs Award is an annual award that recognizes entrepreneurs of Taiwanese heritage located overseas who have managed to consolidate their project so that their business is competitive and has contributed to the growth of wealth and job creation in society. This year’s award ceremony, also attended by the president and prime minister of Taiwan, was held at the Grand Hotel Taipei.
What advice would he give current students and alumni who are considering a career in the financial industry?
“For students/alumni who have an interest in pursuing a financial industry career, you should always make sure you have very strong computer programming skills, especially in Java or Python,” Hu advised. “These skills can open many doors for you in most IT departments. If you can also take some numerical analysis or financial engineering classes, to build up in quantitative knowledge, this will help you to get closer to risk management or trading departments. Once you have these skills, you need to stay focused because learning is never-ending. Try not to make career moves because of money. Make a lot of good friends.”