from fundamental hedge fund to quant

griggah

New Member
To give you a little background, I studied liberal arts and finance in undergrad, then went to work at an elite investment banking firm after I graduated (e.g., like Goldman Sachs, Blackstone, Morgan Stanley). After that, I worked at an elite fundamental long/short equity hedge fund. I did well. Last year I made $400K all in my mid-20s. I'm really analytical and made the firm money, but the reality is that I hated my life and was let go. I hated my life because I am really bad with interpersonal stresses and politics, much moreso than most people. After being let go, I contemplated suicide fairly regularly (I am seeing a therapist and a psychiatrist, so I am in good hands now). It hurt me a great deal because I made the firm an extraordinary amount of money ($50 million), so me being fired was them telling me I was so unpleasant that exceptional performance was irrelevant to them. It also hurt, because I didn't know what else I wanted to do with my life. Also, being let go coincided with me realizing (i) I was on the autism spectrum and (ii) I come across as rude to others without me realizing it, which is pretty normal if you are autistic. I know there are politics in every job and I've tried really hard to improve my skills. For example, after I was let go, I read 50 books on being persuasive and better with people and took theater classes every day in a sincere effort to learn to act more normal. But, I'm not sure how much it will help. I am worried this is a problem that continues to affect me despite my best efforts.

I am not sure what to do. A lot of the normal jobs you do when you find the fundamental finance path stressful might not make sense for me. For example, doing business development involves a lot of people skills, which I clearly have very little of. Part of me wonders if I can be a quant, because it sounds like a finance job that's great if you are bad with people. The problem is I didn't study math in my undergraduate degree nor did I excel in the subject (I got a lot of Bs, which sounds like it may not be good enough). I think I didn't excel because I didn't see it as important to going into investment banking, but the reality is that I like math and was good at it when I applied myself. I think I would be more motivated if I studied it now. Would I be crazy if I did this? What should be my first steps? Is there a way to put my foot in and try it without taking too much risk? Any thoughts or advice?
 

Onegin

Active Member
C++ Student
Bah - fuck them. I’ve known some incredibly talented people who were fired, and seen deadweight be retained. Anyone who has been in the industry has seen the same thing. Bottom line is we all have to define for ourselves what is going on. Peoples opinions are an important input, but just that, an input. If you did screw up, you’re doing the right thing in getting help, and learning how to do better. That’s admirable, the right thing to do.

Going into quant because you don’t like dealing with people is a terrible idea. You’re not choosing a path, you’re avoiding a path in that case. If you think this is something you’d like to do, that’s a different story. For the math, I’ve been there. Liberal arts UG, realized I wanted to work in finance during MBA, also found an aptitude and appreciation for math. Here’s the courses I took - you could probably bang this out in a year or two full time:

Calc 1, 2, for math and science
Multi variable calculus
Stats 1,2 for math and science
Programming w C++ (course here is better)
Linear algebra
Discrete math (set theory)
Differential equations
Calculus based probability
Mathematical statistics
Regression / linear models
Stochastic calculus
Stochastic methods
Optimization methods

Wish I would have taken:
Real analysis
Partial differential equations
Abstract algebra
Graph theory
Software design

Check out the MFE at Berkeley, CMU mSCF, and I think Chicago / Columbia pages. They all had delightfully colorful prereq descriptions. I think maybe Berkeley is the most up to date in terms of stringency.
 
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griggah

New Member
Bah - fuck them. I’ve known some incredibly talented people who were fired, and seen deadweight be retained. Anyone who has been in the industry has seen the same thing. Bottom line is we all have to define for ourselves what is going on. Peoples opinions are an important input, but just that, an input. If you did screw up, you’re doing the right thing in getting help, and learning how to do better. That’s admirable, the right thing to do.

Going into quant because you don’t like dealing with people is a terrible idea. You’re not choosing a path, you’re avoiding a path in that case. If you think this is something you’d like to do, that’s a different story. For the math, I’ve been there. Liberal arts UG, realized I wanted to work in finance during MBA, also found an aptitude and appreciation for math. Here’s the courses I took - you could probably bang this out in a year or two full time:

Calc 1, 2, for math and science
Multi variable calculus
Stats 1,2 for math and science
Programming w C++ (course here is better)
Linear algebra
Discrete math (set theory)
Differential equations
Calculus based probability
Mathematical statistics
Regression / linear models
Stochastic calculus
Stochastic methods
Optimization methods

Wish I would have taken:
Real analysis
Partial differential equations
Abstract algebra
Graph theory
Software design

Check out the MFE at Berkeley, CMU mSCF, and I think Chicago / Columbia pages. They all had delightfully colorful prereq descriptions. I think maybe Berkeley is the most up to date in terms of stringency.

This makes sense. How do I take the pre-reqs though? I live in New York with my girlfriend, so I wanted to take classes while still living in a city that I like. I noticed Columbia has non-degree courses in math - do you recommend I take some of the pre-reqs in math before I consider applying to a masters program? Are there any online programs that can let me do this? I considered some of the MFE programs, but they look like they have some hardcore math I am not yet ready for or qualified to do.
 

Archidamus

Member
Wow, sorry to hear about the job and your personal struggles. I am sure you have done some self reflection on what things you like to do in a job. Another thing you could do is take the 'strength finders' analysis, like $30. Theory is that your strengths is a combo of your talents ans desires, and finding jobs where those are used frequently is helpful. Getting an advanced degree opens doors even if you don't decide to become a 'quant'.

From personal experience, you could do a 'graduate certificate' which is usually 4 classes. You'll be a more attractive candidate showing proven success in graduate level math courses.
 

Onegin

Active Member
C++ Student
NYC? You’re all set! Baruch has a great set of prep courses, and it’s likely they will give you feedback on. How much prep you need for the prep. From there, it’s just a question of finding the right courses. Columbia sounds expensive - but they and other schools have something called “special student status” where you can bang out a couple of courses without enrolling. I started as a very special student, then switched to degree enrolled for giggles.

Again, consider if this is what you want. There’s a lot to be said for a fundamental approach. It’s just hard to prove ability so many use school / family pedigree as a proxy. You’re hitting reset to a degree w starting as a quant, and it’s not obvious that you have a competitive advantage. Maybe evaluate yourself as you would a company you’re researching, then follow the recommendation you would give the CEO of that company.
 

griggah

New Member
This all makes sense. Do you think it matters whether I do it online vs. in person? Also, does where I do these pre-masters classes matter (like does prestige of Baruch vs. Columbia matter)?
 

Onegin

Active Member
C++ Student
Yes, online or in person matters. Most schools won’t accept online, except for the quantnet C++ course. I think people care less where you do the prereqs - community college is not preferable, but as long as it’s accredited you should be in good shape. Baruch > Columbia in general for the prep courses. Berkeley and Chicago both also have solid prep programs, though you’d have to relocate.
 

Daniel Duffy

C++ author, trainer
As you say you are in your mid-20s which young enough to do maths to develop analytical skills. But be happy, that's the most important part. I would add Numerical Maths to Onegin's list.

And after that there are many openings because maths+programming skills are needed (at least what I have seen in the last 50 years).
 
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griggah

New Member
This makes a lot of sense. Just to get a picture, if I wanted to do quant research at a place like Two Sigma, what are the right "stepping stones" career-wise other than academic achievement? For example, should I try to get a job as a software engineer first? If so, does it matter where or whether the software engineering job is inside or outside of finance? I hear a lot that a masters degree is often not worth as much as an undergraduate degree (since it is half as long in length) or work experience (since it is less practical), so I wanted to get a sense for what other steps are necessary other than academics in order to make the transition.
 

Onegin

Active Member
C++ Student
There are a few different, well tread paths:

1. undergrad > top ranked quant MFE > - sellside, risk, asset management, hedge funds
2. undergrad > data science MS program > asset management. some industry experience in between could be
2. undergrad > PhD > HF, asset management, etc
3. undergrad > industry > quant MFE

The programmer > quant is less frequent - I know 1 guy, but he's a fantastic investor. The software skills will help, but it's a bit of the long way around if you ask me.

There's a definite pipeline from the top MS programs - I've not heard that about masters < undergrad; in quantland more skillz generally == moar billz.

Maybe a few things to ponder:
- check average ages of programs. MIT is definitely early career, NYU / Princeton less so.
- Wall Street Oasis could be another resource for some of the more tactical questions you're intersted in.
- With your background, there might be a case for going the data science route. Stay away from Berkeley / NW online programs. MIT has a new one, Harvard as well and I've seen students go out of there into good jobs. I think this space is a bit of the wild west right now. In any case, with your fundamental skills, you could probably think up of some wacky shit to use to forecast. This way, your existing domain knowledge could be useful.
- There is a place on quant teams for folks who know fundamental modeling - some of the best researchers I've met had MBAs, but were able to adjust quant models to take into account the stuff fundamental folks know cold. Maybe you hit a few python bootcamps very hard, and go out that way. Or do the 2 C++ courses here - you could probably get back to industry very quickly in this kind of a role.
- Keep in mind, the hiring managers are most concerned about making money. You can already do that. So the problem, from my point of view, is more one of finding the right opportunity rather than finding the path that every other person who dreams of having your experience ends up taking.
 

griggah

New Member
There are a few different, well tread paths:

1. undergrad > top ranked quant MFE > - sellside, risk, asset management, hedge funds
2. undergrad > data science MS program > asset management. some industry experience in between could be
2. undergrad > PhD > HF, asset management, etc
3. undergrad > industry > quant MFE

The programmer > quant is less frequent - I know 1 guy, but he's a fantastic investor. The software skills will help, but it's a bit of the long way around if you ask me.

There's a definite pipeline from the top MS programs - I've not heard that about masters < undergrad; in quantland more skillz generally == moar billz.

Maybe a few things to ponder:
- check average ages of programs. MIT is definitely early career, NYU / Princeton less so.
- Wall Street Oasis could be another resource for some of the more tactical questions you're intersted in.
- With your background, there might be a case for going the data science route. Stay away from Berkeley / NW online programs. MIT has a new one, Harvard as well and I've seen students go out of there into good jobs. I think this space is a bit of the wild west right now. In any case, with your fundamental skills, you could probably think up of some wacky shit to use to forecast. This way, your existing domain knowledge could be useful.
- There is a place on quant teams for folks who know fundamental modeling - some of the best researchers I've met had MBAs, but were able to adjust quant models to take into account the stuff fundamental folks know cold. Maybe you hit a few python bootcamps very hard, and go out that way. Or do the 2 C++ courses here - you could probably get back to industry very quickly in this kind of a role.
- Keep in mind, the hiring managers are most concerned about making money. You can already do that. So the problem, from my point of view, is more one of finding the right opportunity rather than finding the path that every other person who dreams of having your experience ends up taking.
Does it matter if I get a more pre-professional degree like a masters in data science / masters in financial engineering vs. one that is more theoretical like a computer science or applied math degree?

Another question is why does it matter whether the class is online vs. in-person? For the Columbia applied math, georgia tech CS and Upenn CS online MS degrees, the diplomas do not say "online" apparently. It would seem strange to ask about this in an interview, so I don't know why someone would no.

You mention WSO as a resource for this ... I am very familiar with the site because I used it a LOT when I was in college to prepare for investment banking. That said, they actually don't have much content on becoming a quant relative to their content on investment banking. Other than QuantNet are there any WSO-quality forums that I could learn from in trying to become a quant?
 

Michsund

Active Member
C++ Student
I would look into an mba in stats or quantitative finance. Think NYU, Wharton booth
 

quantsmodelsbottles

Active Member
Really, would any MBA program be quantitative enough?
No, except maybe the Chicago one at Booth (have seen some alum work for citadel as quant researchers).

Columbia has a lot of masters degrees...I still think it has a good reputation on the street but they do take a lot of people. I don't see what's wrong with say, doing an online MS in CS at UPenn, but other board members probably know more

Other than QuantNet are there any WSO-quality forums that I could learn from in trying to become a quant?
reddit.com/r/quant, established quant professionals on quora, wilmott (quality has been garbage lately though, full of egotistical shitposters. i would actually put WSO under the same category)
 
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