Simmons, a legendary figure in the financial industry and the father of quantitative trading, passed away

James Harris Simons, the father of quantitative trading, passed away on Friday in New York.

On Friday local time, the Simons Foundation announced that its co-founder James Harris Simons passed away in New York at the age of 86.

The foundation stated that Jim is an award-winning mathematician, legendary investor, and generous philanthropist.

Simmons is one of the wealthiest mathematicians in the world. In 2024, he ranked 55th on Forbes Global Billionaires with a net worth of $31.4 billion.

('(Image source: Simmons Foundation)',)(‘(Image source: Simmons Foundation)’,)

According to the foundation’s obituary, Simmons stated that his career went through three stages: mathematician, investor, and philanthropist.

During his time as a mathematician, he served as the head of the Mathematics Department at Stony Brook University in New York. During this period, he made multiple mathematical breakthroughs and had a profound impact on scientific research fields such as string theory, topology, and condensed matter physics.

In the investor stage, Simmons founded Renaissance Technologies, a quantitative trading hedge fund, in 1978, pioneering quantitative trading and becoming one of the most profitable investment companies in history.

In the philanthropist stage, Simmons turned to changing the world through the Simmons Foundation, Simmons Foundation International, Math for America, and other charitable causes.

As a mathematician, Simmons collaborated with Chinese mathematician Chen Shengshen to publish a paper titled “Canonical Groups and Geometric Invariants” in 1974, establishing the famous Chen Simons theory, which earned him the Oswald Veblen Prize from the American Mathematical Society.

As an investor, Simmons is known as the “father of quantitative trading”. The Grand Medal Fund, established in March 1988, had an average annual return rate of 66% from 1998 to 2018. Unlike most investors who evaluate a company’s value through fundamental research, Simmons relies entirely on an automated trading system, exploiting the inefficiency and trading patterns of the market. The Grand Medal Fund earned over $100 billion in profits from 1998 to 2018, with an annualized return rate of 39% after deducting expenses. The fund ceased accepting new funds in 1993 and it was not until 2005 that Simmons allowed its employees to start investing. Since Simmons began revolutionizing trading in the 1980s, quantitative strategies relying on trend tracking models have become increasingly popular on Wall Street. According to JPMorgan Chase’s estimate, quantitative funds now account for over 20% of all equity assets.

As philanthropists, Simmons and his wife Marilyn Simons founded the Simmons Foundation in 1994, donating billions of dollars to charitable causes including supporting mathematical and scientific research. Simmons remained active in the foundation’s work until the very end of his life.