Search for shortcuts leads student to programming publication

Adriano DuranteOdette MBA student Adriano Durante developed a program to strip extraneous information from a financial database.

Looking for the easy way out doesn’t usually lead to academic success — unless you’re Adriano Durante.

The Odette School of Business MBA student will have his paper, “How to Build a Better Database: When Python Programming Meets Bloomberg’s Open API,” published in an upcoming edition of Finance Research Letters, all thanks to his search for shortcuts during an assignment given by his faculty advisor Eahab Elsaid.

“Dr. Elsaid asked for data from 300 company proxy statements and I thought to myself, ‘that’s going to take a while,’” Durante said.

The student, who is also Elsaid’s MBA research assistant, was collecting the information as part of an independent study course requirement — though it proved to be a daunting task for a student with strengths and a master’s degree in political science.

He started with the application programming interface (API) of the financial media company Bloomberg, which provides bulk data contained in corporate proxy statements to investors — everything from CEO salaries to option plans for directors — but faced the challenge of dealing with a firehose of information.

Durante used a web crawler to teach himself coding in order to weed out extraneous data — leaving only the information he needed to complete his assignment. The serendipitous result was a tool that can be shared with others doing similar research.

“Programming isn’t my background at all,” he said. “To be honest, I was just looking for a way to make this easier for myself — to strip away any unneeded data points to get at what I really wanted.

“It took me about three weeks to develop the code in the Odette finance lab but now it is something that can be used by anyone who wants to save time doing this type of research.”

Elsaid has high praise for his student’s ingenuity.

“When I picked Adriano to be my MBA research assistant it never occurred to me that we would be publishing a paper that I believe is going to make hand collecting data a thing of the past,” he said. “He is a brilliant researcher and I was very fortunate to get an opportunity to work with him.”