On Friday October 2, 2015, a few like-minded people got together in the New York area to form the Real World Risk Institute.
The mission statement summarized by “real world” can be expressed more directly as:

  • Understand model error before you use a model
  • An intuitive understanding of probability without the fluff
  • To talk the talk you also need to walk the walk
  • Data Science without overcomplication and sophistry
  • How to do risk analysis without the nonsense
  • When and if we model, we go from reality to models not from models to reality
  • Take risks you understand, don’t try to understand risks you are taking
  • Risk education should not aim at impressing a regulator but developing real-life competence


Summary: We are about risk taking (front office) not just something called "risk management" (back office), which should never be separated from decision-making. Some academo-bureaucrats with something to prove have an incentive to make things look complicated, while real world risk takers with skin in the game do not have such insecurity; they are not ashamed of making those things that are simple simple! The real world require vastly more rigor than textbooks and it is a different type of rigor. Most of all risk requires maximal clarity of mind. As of 2021, we have had close to 1000 attendees, more than 30 repeats (one person came back 5 times); a eclectic composition: about 25 medical doctors, 20 military persons, 5 professional hackers, 20 policy makers, numerous venture capitalists/entrepreneurs, traders, psychologists, bankers, small business owners, social workers, university professors, etc. We have also granted more than 300 scholarships and financial assistance.

Check #RWRI on Twitter.


The idea is also to revolutionize education by making it closer to the practitioner model. No academic without real word background should teach a subject that has real world implications. In November 2017, after 2 years and six sessions, we decided to hire instructors from past attendees who have real world experience in the work they are teaching.

The current team includes:

  • 4 risk takers, former full-time traders (with combined experience of more than a century)
  • 2 persons known to have an attitude problem
  • 7 Phds (quant/math), 3 businessmen, quants and advisors to hedge funds
  • 3 UHNWI (Ultra High Net Worth Individuals)
  • 5 persons who specialize in tail events in both theory and real-life practice
  • 3 are probabilists with deep enough a knowledge of probability to respect practice and explain things with concepts and pictures
In addition to long trading and risk taking careers, they have advised heads of state, central banks, top institutions (such as the IMF), U.S. government agencies, testified in front of U.S. Congress, etc... the whole shebang.

The Mission: How to Make Decisions Under Uncertainty

The first aim of the institute is to build the principles and methodology for what we call real-world rigor in decision making and codify a clear-cut way to approach risk. The second aim is to provide executive education courses and issue two certificates:

  1. A (mini) certificate of no-BS risk management, more politely called: Mini-Certificate in Real World Risk Management along the old apprenticeship model by which experienced professional teaches less-experienced professionals.
  2. An advanced version of the certificate: Mini-Certificate in Real World Risk Analytics with more technical approaches. While we avoid math when we can we do not shy from using the math where needed but only where needed. We believe that it will be the first quantitative program embedded in the real world, seen from both risk-taking and risk-managing perspective.

The Team

Usually at least 4 instructors (up to 8) participate in each session, interacting with one another and the participants.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

(Former) option trader, now self-owned scholar who engages in a multidisciplinary no-nonsense approach to probability. He is known for his BS-busting, his intolerance for fake research and his multivolume Incerto (The Black Swan, Antifragile, and Fooled by Randomness). He has completed 600,000 option trades and now specializes in the mitigation of tail risk.

Robert J. Frey

An applied mathematician of the no-nonsense variety, hedge fund trader and former partner of Renaissance Technologies. Currently runs a fund of hedge funds and professor at Stony Brook.

Raphael Douady

(Formerly) Frey Family Chair Professor (the same Frey as before) in the applied mathematics department at Stony Brook; he has two decades experience as a quant and founder of a risk software firm.

Instructors [13-15]

  • TAIL RISK HEDGING: Brandon Yarkin, COO of Universa Investments
  • INSURANCE: Arié Haziza, SVP, head of catastrophe risk analytics for a reinsurance company. 
  • MACHINE LEARNING / CLIMATE: Patricia B. Avigliano, IBM Research
  • GEOPOLITICS: Velina Tchakarova, political risk analyst, former attendee
  • COMPLEXITY: Yaneer Bar-Yam, physicist, complex system modeler, founder New England Complex System Institute
  • COMPUTATIONAL COMPLEXITY: Trishank Karthik Kuppusamy, computer scientist and past attendee
  • FLYING/AEROSPACE RISKS: Alexander Taleb , aerospace engineer
  • COMPUTATIONAL AUTOMATA: Diego Zviovich, executive of a multinational corp and Mathematica expert
  • EXTREME VALUE THEORY: Pasquale Cirillo, Professor of Data Science, Zurich University of Applied Sciences
  • BANKING REGULATIONS (INCLUDES SHARIA): Ghassan Chammas, veteran banker
  • CRYPTO: Gur Huberman, Columbia University Professor and industry advisor
  • COMPLIANCE/FRAUD: Tom Messina, former attendee, currently compliance officer at a financial institution
  • OTHER RISKS: Various practitioners. Only practitioners, of course except for specific scientific applications.

Program Coordinator: Alicia Bentham-Williams


*Risk taking not risk management


Number 17: July 11-22, 2022, 8:30-12 Eastern Standard Time, plus optional afternoon discussions.

Pricing: $2,995 (Scholarships/financial aid available for 25-50% of the class). Note that we accept cryptocurrencies (with preference for stable ones)!

Contact: Alicia Bentham-Williams,,


Note: Discussions include minimal equations, but a lot of concepts, graphs, and pictures

[Note that it is not so much lecture classroom style: in addition to the lecturer, we have usually at least 2 other instructors present and commenting at the same time, to have a conversation]

Who is this mini-certificate for?
- Data scientists, risk professionals and analysts interested in how what they know applies to the real word
- Professional risk takers (with some basic familiarity with technical language) willing to gain perspective and understand how to use the research without falling into model error
- Generally curious people with some risk experience wanting to understand fragility, antifragility and probability problems in an interactive environment.