The Sawyer Business School’s Center for Business Complexity & Global Leadership kicked off its first “Sexy Complexity Series” on February 1, with guest speaker and finance expert Ren Cheng.

Cheng is a senior research advisor at Fidelity Management & Research Company. His talk addressed the unique challenges of today’s complex business environment. He noted that although the global marketplace has transformed into an interconnected network of social, economic, and technological systems, the financial industry has been slow to incorporate methodologies that reflect this complexity.

Traditional linear models fall short in helping business leaders evaluate opportunities and financial risks. Cheng supports the use of new, cutting-edge tools that provide insight into the many factors that affect complex organizations in today’s dynamic economy.

“While people are still trying to find a cause of the last financial crisis, we continue to search for a true understanding of the underlying forces that set the markets off into a tailspin. This was a wake-up call telling us that we are indeed entering the century of complexity,” said Greta Meszoely, director of the Center for Business Complexity & Global Leadership and associate professor at the Sawyer Business School.

Cheng currently works with investment teams across Fidelity on asset allocation and research. He has held various leadership roles since joining the company in 1994. He developed the concept of Target Date Funds in 1994 and initiated the first national level 529 College Investment Funds (The Fidelity UNIQUE 529 portfolios) in 1998. Prior to joining Fidelity, Cheng spent nine years at Putnam Investments, where he served as a senior vice president and senior portfolio manager.

Cheng’s talk was the first event in a monthly series that was developed to bring complexity thinking to contemporary topics. The next event will be held on March 1. Michael Greeley, a founding partner of Flybridge Capital, will discuss innovation in the age of complexity. For live updates on the series, follow us on Twitter (@SuBizSchool) and use the hashtag: #SexyComplexity.

The Center for Business Complexity & Global Leadership has led the way in complexity research, helping business leaders understand the underlying factors that have transformed the business landscape. “It is our belief that today's real-world complex issues can most effectively be understood through transdisciplinary collaboration across sectors and applications,” said Meszoely. For more information, visit