Daniel Totouom-Tangho, here on the left with John Terilla, also a member of the Friends of IHES Board of Directors, first discovered the Institut des Hautes Etudes Scientifiques when he was a student at Ecole Polytechnique. His professor Jean-Pierre Bourguignon was also the director of IHES at the time and encouraged Daniel to attend conferences and lectures at the Institute. Daniel thus came a few times, and although the level was quite advanced, he was immediately fascinated by the place.
Even as a student, Daniel noticed what makes IHES unique. “IHES is very close to the RER as well as many labs, grandes écoles and other research institutions, but it is particularly calm and quiet. You can immediately tell that it is a great environment to think, create and make major breakthroughs.” The peacefulness of IHES is essential, but Daniel also appreciated the importance of meetings and informal discussions for researchers. He noticed immediately that there were blackboards everywhere at the Institute, even outside: those are great tools for mathematicians or theoretical physicists to be able to think collectively on a problem. IHES is indeed a place to reflect and think, but also to learn, network and discuss.
Currently Director within Strategic and Financial Management at BNP Paribas, Daniel has over 20 years of expertise in quantitative analysis and risk management, and to him, the values that characterize IHES are very much in line with his own professional approach. “In banking, the models we use rely on very advanced mathematics. Basic science also plays an essential role in many of today’s crucial issues – cybersecurity, quantum computing, artificial intelligence to name a few. I believe that supporting fundamental research is key to ensure creativity, progress and sustainable development”, says Daniel. He notes that the emerging field of sustainable finance sits at the crossroads of financial knowledge and a scientific approach to climate change and other global issues that shape the market. Banking clients appreciate strategies that are ethical, evidence-based, and realistic.
Daniel has always kept one foot in the world of academia and research. After graduation from both Ecole Polytechnique and Ecole des Mines (X Mines), while starting his career in finance, he managed to get his PhD in Quantitative Finance and study drama while working a full time job. After moving to NYC, he became Adjunct Professor in Statistical Arbitrage and Financial Engineering at New York University. “Financial experts are tested everyday by the market, and this helps me take a step back, question myself, gain some perspective and hindsight. We are more productive when we challenge ourselves.” Clearly, this also reveals Daniel’s curiosity and his insatiable thirst for exploring, acquiring knowledge and sharing.
Daniel has attended all galas held by the Friends of IHES so far and has helped organize several IHES events with clients of BNP Paribas. In the picture above he stands next to (from left) Raphaël Douady, Jim Simons, Yann Coantalem and Bleron Baraliu at the 2019 Friends of IHES gala. Daniel has always been passionate about learning and sharing knowledge, and his numerous commitments prove it. He and his wife, a physician, love learning alongside their three sons. On top of being a board member at the Friends of IHES, Daniel is also the Treasurer for Friends of Ecole Polytechnique, Inc. “It is always a pleasure for me to introduce colleagues and friends to the work done by IHES. Supporting research and education should always be a priority.”