Interview with Dominic Connor

Dominic Connor is a partner in P&D. He teaches C++ in the CQF program and has been recruiting for quant positions. Based on London, UK, Dominic is well known both via his work as a headhunter and a prolific poster on the online quant communities. We'd like to thank Dominic for taking the time to sit down for an interview with QuantNet. Thanks, Dominic!

Can you give us a brief bio?

Paul Wilmott & I started P&D recruitment about three years ago. Before that I'd been a CIO for a brokerage firm in fixed income, having worked at a variety of IBs. I'm married with two kids, live in Epping Forest on the edge of London.

What is your educational background?

I'm a former student of Paul Wilmott on the CQF, and before that did Maths/Comp Sci at university, and worked on a project to apply fuzzy logic to stock picking.

What do you consider as your accomplishments up to this point?

As a teenager I worked on an industrial process to plate gold onto Teflon. Was tricky, and mildly dangerous. (hint: mixing gold potassium cyanate, nitric acid and electricity should not be tried at home). Whilst working as a consultant to the British Treasury, the accountant in charge of the British national debt calculated that on an hourly basis I was the most expensive person in the pay of the British government. This was an attempt to get the bank that employed me to cut their rates. It failed.

Any failures you'd like to tell us about?

No...
But if you insist, early in my career I tried to apply artificial intelligence techniques to stock picking, was awful, we genuinely believed that technical analysis had some merit. My excuse was that I was young.

What other projects and/or ventures are you involved in?

I teach on the CQF, and have a venture looking at extremely low latency trading systems.

What would you want to do for a living if you weren't a quant recruiter?

I'd go back to bossing people around in some IB, or if all else fails take the job in algo trading I was accidentally offered by a bank which confused quant headhunting with being a quant. I like teaching, so would do more of that.

What advice can you give people just getting into quantitative finance field? What are the most common mistakes you see newbie making?

The most common structural error is to not making an effort to understand as much about the job as you can. A growing failure mode is students who have strong foreign accents not socially mixing with their peers outside their ethnic group. This hurts their networking a little, but in a surprising % of cases I encounter MFEs who have anything up to 4 years education in the US or Britain who I cannot understand when they speak. In some cases, my ears tell me that they're not speaking English at all. But their written and reading skills are excellent.

Another mistake is thinking that the MFE will get you a career. It will get you interviews, not even a job. You are all running up a down escalator in competition with others. You have to learn more than you are taught. Being just another MFE might get you a job, it won't make you rich.

What technical skill set, personal qualities that you look for in a prospective job seeker?

Obviously this is a math based career, and I like to see some breadth beyond the standard core that everyone is expected to have. Banks are less interested in hiring people who only know the narrow band of maths you see in quant text books. I like to see 'creativity', that's hard to define, but one approximation is the habit of trying to use ideas out of their original context. This is especially applicable to a game like ours where most people are from other backgrounds, you should be thinking of how to make this stuff work in finance. Typically you will fail, but the effort itself has value.

I like to see articulate people for several reasons. First up of course they do better at interviews, but a surprising % of the people I speak to leave me with the feeling that they don't really understand the thing they've been doing for the last few years. I could of course be mistaken, but that error hurts them more than me. But as I say elsewhere, you need to be able to explain if you want to prosper in this line of work.

How has your business changed over the years? What challenges will you face in the future?

The diversity in jobs has increased enormously. When Derman started in this business, quants were few, and most could switch track radically without effort. Now every aspect of investment banking requires at least some quant skills. Recently we talked to a large IB about quant compliance, an idea I am still getting my head around. Certainly, customer facing business development staff often now need quant skills, which hurts some older players, because they need to explain to clients and their advisors the nature of sophisticated, and thus higher margin products.

What skills (technical, social) you believe are essential to being a successful MFE?

I'm going to focus on the non-obvious aspects, rather than the obvious stochastics, PDEs, numerical methods et al.

A good technical skill, to be useful should be a lightning rod for interview questions, which means you should choose your "banner" skills as those where you can beat others.

Reviewing my posts on Quantnet, I don't push Excel VBA hard enough as a technical skill. It probably won't get you a job, but will improve your visible productivity early in your job.

In this climate, there is a stronger trend towards "needs" based hiring over "want". That means sprinkling in a few relatively low level buzzwords can make you seem like the person they have to hire to get certain work done.

Some social skills that will help you progress:
Ability to disagree with your boss in a way that does not offend him, his intelligence, or in some cases, his mother.
You're smart, else you wouldn't be doing this, and with that comes opinions which is good, but there are a pair of failure mode where quants argue needlessly and badly, and/or simply take any view of your boss with sullen silence.

Ability to explain yourself.
We like to see people who've had experience explaining things because a quant is a local expert in some area, and that means you need to communicate what you think. A good exercise is to "cross domains". For instance force yourself to explain any finance concept in terms of card games and best on horses, and when that simply won't stretch, seek out gambling games like roulette. It's news to some people that bookies hedge, which really ought to be obvious.

It's not enough to know the algebra of Kelly criteria, you should feel it, but that's no excuse for not knowing the maths.

Given current market headlines, is demand for quants increasing, decreasing, or remaining the same? Are certain quantitative skill sets becoming more valuable?

A year from now I expect more quants to be employed than today, but supply is increasing, so at some point there will be a serious gap in supply and demand. This is being delayed partly by the increase in variety of jobs

Where are the areas (product, geographic) that you are seeing most recruiting happening and who are still hiring? What will be the hottest trend?

Algorithmic trading has so far managed to avoid any major blow ups, and the technology is at a stage where the barriers to entry are relatively low. This means the large banks are not cutting this much, and some are expanding. However the quite appalling state of some major IBs infrastructure means the prop shops can compete on more equal terms. This is all good news for employment relative to the current market.

For a recent MFE graduate looking to join a trading desk, which type of desk is better, flow desk or prop desk and why? Hedge fund or IB?

You'll learn more on a prop desk, but some firms have flow trading as part of a structured process by which you get a picture of the whole business which makes you more effective. So flow is good as *part* of your training, but not so good if it's *all* you do, and prop is a steeper learning curve but you don't go so deep.

A lot depends on the IB you are comparing to a HF. I'd take DE Shaw over many IBs, but brands have more value when you are at the start of your career.

You are a big C++ advocate, how would one benchmark his level of C++ worthiness that deem acceptable to you? Is there a set of exam, test, etc?

No.
The Brainbench tests are the least useless, but their main utility is being a cheap quick way of filtering out the truly hopeless. I regard myself as understanding some maths or programming only when I can correct the errors of others, and I think that you should not put any language on your CV unless you've fixed some bugs of your peers. This is a dirty secret of quant finance, about 60% of the work is programming and circa 50% of that is debugging. I guess a Baruch grad has 30 years of work ahead of him, so that's 10 years of fixing code. If that thought makes you physically ill, quit now.

How would one gauge his own level of success in this industry? For example, after 5 years, must one be at a certain income level with a certain title?

I'm famous for saying that you spend more time with the people you work with than who you sleep with. When people tell me about how content or unhappy they are, respect of their peers is a big factor. This is a very important and delicate issue; people who will happily tell me what they earn or important personal data, will skirt this issue.
Income correlates with respect, but again it's the rate of change and how your set of possibilities evolves that affect your morale.
I know this from my own experience, I quit my last real job because I simply could not see anything that I could do that I felt was worthwhile.

As a headhunter, it's not my job to tell people what to want, it is to find out what they want and then help them get it. Money is a factor in choosing one job over another, but for most people it is not the reason that makes them get in contact with me. Money is an objective measure of the "respect" your firm/boss has for you. One reason for the quite dreadful IT in several large firms is that IT people get random small numbers, uncorrelated with their contribution. When quant developers get dropped into IT, their morale drops faster than their pay.
One reason I'll never have to get a real job again is that nearly all banks are structurally incapable of developing people's careers. Occasionally a bank will do this mildly well, but then lose interest.

Many employers under-weight the importance of job titles as part of recognizing people's evolution

Do you have any advice for someone who may be starting their career in a second-tier financial center like Chicago?

Leave.
More seriously, you need to put a bit more effort into networking, and where you have the choice try to go for more branded employers. In this market, that is not always easy, so try to pick jobs where you are learning. Chicago may be further from Wall Street, but that matters a lot less if the job is closer to the money. Sometimes there is a rational trade off to make.

What are your opinions on prop shops? I've heard people say taking a job at one of these places is a black mark on your resume as far as IBs are concerned.

Yes, some managers do see prop shops as beneath them, but many like the idea that you are close to the money, this should be something you push when you go for other jobs.
I see quite a few quant jobs right in the "high frequency" trading space, and a lot of the math involved (signal processing, etc.) are quite different than the stuff taught in typical MFE programs. Is self-study for this subjects a realistic option for these openings, or should we just leave these openings to Electrical Engineers who have been doing this for a living?

That's a pretty accurate summation, though we do have a few algo traders who are self taught in the relevant techniques. Although the strongest demand is for those with PhD level SP, good undergrad experience combined with the right maths can get you there. Typically an EE can't do more than about 25% of his degree in things relevant to SP, so self study is not impossible, but getting a job is then dependent upon your ability to project that to a prospective employer.

There is also demand for the very top end of econometrics whizzes, though the feedback I get is that employers find many mainline economists don't quite have the depth they require.

What can be done to attract more women into quantitative finance field?

Show them the money.
They also need to get the message about the work. It's inevitable that many people both males and females have an incomplete model of the opportunities and career paths. As I say above there's more types of jobs than anyone might suspect, so this is an entirely fixable situation. We advise women on this, but course if they don't look too hard at this line of work, they never find us in the first place.

The deep problem though is arts graduates in the media pumping a message that anyone who does science is an ugly geek with no friends. But we can't fix this.

What do you think are the difficulties for women to thrive in this male-dominated career and what would be your suggestions?

Although you may work for a bank with 100,000 people, investment banking leans towards lots of smallish groups, so you may end up in an all male team. Some women seem put off by this, and I have seen a couple turn down roles on that basis.
I see less networking by women, which on the whole holds them back.

There is of course sexism, and I'm not going to pretend it doesn't do damage. But I've worked in several industries and interacted with most professions, and I'm pretty confident it is less bad in investment banking than most other places, especially media, government and retail banking. I have met precisely one senior woman senior retail banker, yet like in nursing there's plenty at the lower levels.
But the money in quant work is better, so my cynical position is that if you're going to be discriminated against anyway, you might as well get well paid for it. IBs make more millionaires from ethnic minorities than any other line of work, so I don't see any major barrier to extending that to women.
We're looking at doing an "Investment Banking for Girls" event with one of the major banks, for women doing the right subjects. Aside from the requirement to think of a better name, it will use all our resources to get enough in one place simply because the vast majority of proto-quants are men.

What have been your experiences placing female candidates? Do they face more obstacles or being short-changed as a female?

It's easier for us to get an interview for a woman, and on average they are more likely to get a given job. Being a headhunter, it follows that I have better data on the transitions between jobs than how women progress within those jobs. Hiring managers from a wide range of business have privately told us they'd actively like to see more women. That to me is a clear signal that if I find more good female quants, my business will grow faster.
Joining the dots of the snapshots I have of female quant careers, I see no evidence that FQs move up the food chain more slowly or earn less. Although my data is sparse enough that there may well be a bias, it tells me that it is not very large, because I'd spot that.

There is a shadow of a signal that FQs get lower bonuses, certainly they convey that idea to me, and this implies some degree of lower appreciation of their work.

Kids are an issue of course, and if someone leaves this line of work, I can't figure them into my model. I have to choose my words carefully here, but it can be made to work, if you want it to. Mrs. DCFC is a partner in a very large international law firm, earning money comparable to an IB quant, and so we have a nanny, and various other fixes available to those who earn relatively well. The wide variety of jobs means that a working mother has a respectable set of options. I accept there is an impact (DCFC 2.0 and 2.1 cost more than a new house in lost earnings), but when I see mothers in lower paid jobs outside banking they don't have so many choices and those options are often much less attractive. An FQ might go and work for a consultancy and gain better hours at the price of "only" earning 4 times what the average person does.

If you were asked to design a curriculum for MS program in Financial Engineering which core courses would you pick?

The core of most MFEs is the same, and I have no issue with that. The structural change I'd look at is more deep-specialist options. As the market tightens, it will be less useful to know the same general stuff as everyone else. That is a long term trend as well, as the size of this profession grows then you cannot hope to cover everything in adequate detail.
Thus I'd identify some niche like energy derivatives, risk management or government debt and build excellence all the way from trading through to cutting edge modeling and hedging. I'd split roughly 2/3 core competencies in time series, pricing, numerical methods, etc, and 1/3 making people stand out as first rate in that area. Done properly you can attract the top names to guest lecture and work with students, and of course banks wanting that particular skill will come shopping.

If you were asked to run an MFE program, what would you do to place your students for internships and jobs?

As a headhunter, I see the alumni as the most powerful resource for getting my students into firms. I would make sure that we kept contact with them, with things like continuing education, lunches, meetings in bars. Create a yearbook with a summary of the program and the CV of everyone who's looking for a job. Include a list of the subjects covered by students and the depth they did them to. Mail it to all alumni. None of this costs much.

I'd also have a short series of lectures specifically aimed at the skills relevant for getting a job. That's conditional probability, brain teasers, how to explain what you're good at, and CV design.
Also I'd encourage the alumni to work on the recruitment system. Headhunters are the first gatekeepers in the process, and try their best to find out what clients want. If they think Baruch students sell well, you will find yourself being put forward to more roles. It's also important to know that in this line of work you are interviewing people much earlier than elsewhere. This can actually be just a few weeks, and very probably you will interview a newbie within your first year. Thus there are Baruch alumni getting resumes from headhunters all the time. They just need to ask "why am I not getting many Baruch people ?". The HH will get the message, and if enough do that it will swing the consensus your way. I'm not saying Baruch alumni should give preferential treatment to own school in hiring decisions which is wrong on so many levels, just poke the information providers to see the picture better.
(Just don't tell the other HHs I told you to do this).

What do you know now that you wish you'd known 10 years ago?

That I could do this for a living, is certainly the first item. I'm lucky that I enjoy my job, enough that my 7 year old son has difficulty understanding that it is work.

Tell us something about yourself that we don't already know.

I've started writing a novel about Rogue Trading, based upon the realities we've seen, with various tales I get to hear as a headhunter.

The working title is "Fat Tails", maybe "Trade/Off" what do you think ?

What does the future hold for Dominic Connor?

I ought to do a careers talk at Baruch, and physically meet the people who read my posts on Quantnet.

See also
 
1) Where are the areas that you are seeing most recruiting happening? Risk, Trading etc.

2) Who's hiring? I-banks, Hedge funds?

3) Geographically is the hiring more in London/NYC/maybe Asia?(I dont know if you're pimping strictly in London but I'm curious about your thoughts on this subject)

4) What are becoming the hot areas(same as 1 I guess)?
 
1) For a recent MFE graduate looking to join a trading desk, which type of desk is better, flow desk or prop desk and why ?
2) What would you suggest for MFE looking for first entry level job, hedge fund or IB ? Why ?
3) You are a big C++ advocate, how would one benchmark his level of C++ worthiness that deem acceptable to you ? Is there a set of exam, test, etc ?
4) Is there a resume format that you prefer/recommend for entry level quant ?
5) How would one gauge his own level of success in this industry ? For example, for an MFE, after 5 years, must he be at a certain income level (say 250K) with a corp title (say VP) ?

6) If you were asked to design the structure of an MFE program, what courses would you pick ?
7) If you were asked to run a brand new MFE program, what would you do to place your students for internships and jobs ?
 
More questions

First of all, I'd like to thank you on behalf of anyone who's read your excellent and rather volumunous guide to quant careers. I'll try to avoid asking something you've already written up in that.

1) A lot of the openings I'm finding are in Chicago. Any advice for someone who may be starting their career in a second-tier financial center? Any particular caveats?

2) What's your opinions on prop shops? I've heard people say taking a job at one of these places is a black mark on your resume as far as IBs are concerned. Naturally, if it came down to a job at a prop shop where I do quantitative work and a job at a more prestegious firm where I won't be doing quant work directly and only have some vague promise of being able to move into quant work later, I'd rather do the former. But I'm also concerned about starting my career on the wrong foot.

3) I see quite a few quant jobs right in the "high frequency" trading space, and a lot of the maths involved (signal processing, etc.) are quite different than the stuff taught in typical MFE programs. Is self-study for this subject a realistic option for these openings, or should we just leave these openings to Electrical Engineers who have been doing this for a living? I learned this stuff in school - years ago. Barely used it since. :cry:
 
1) What can be done to attract more women into quantitative finance field ?

2) What do you think are the difficulties for women to thrive in this male-dominated career and what would be your suggestions ?

3) What have been your experiences placing female candidates ? Do they face more obstacles or being short-changed as a female ?

Thanks, Dominic
 
1) Type A program : lesser known, non existent placement service, secondary location.
Type B program : well known, excellent placement record, located in NYC
What can students in type A do to compete against graduates from type B ? Job board, school are of little help, where else should they go for help to get a good entry level quant job ?

I believe this question merits some consideration since the number of students joining Baruch, NYU, CMU, UCB each year is just a fraction of the total number doing MFE. Much discussion has been focused on the type B program and not much on type A. What would become the fates of those from type A programs ?
 
Maybe this is a bit late. But here is a question.

What do you think is the reason why the majority of quants are foreign-born? I mean most of them are either Chinese or Indian. That's quite discouraging to me, and to be honest, that's why I decided not to pursue an MFE. American students are avoiding the field. And it makes sense to me; I'd rather be a manager and just hire these quants to do the work.

I don't have anything against any groups; I am just stating the facts. Any comments?

Thanks,
Don
 
While I don't belong to either group that you mentioned, I believe Asian education traditionally focus on math and science so it makes sense that a large number of them major in CS, Math, engineering in college.
American students largely are more interested in business and throughout my college years in the states, I hardly see many American students taking any advanced math courses beyond Calculus 3. The more advanced course you take, the more Asian you see taking the course.
I don't think Americans are avoiding the MFE path. I think they just
a)don't have the mathematical courses required
b)look at MFE as too nerdy
c)unexplained reasons

I know few MFE programs are trying hard to attract Caucasian students and the few that I met are liberal arts majors which is quite a contrast to the mostly engineering, math, CS background of the Indian, Chinese students that dominate the MFE programs.
 
I think a response to your post could fill a book!
Here is something you would see on the back cover...
Just a couple of points, food for thought and comments.
It is not my intention to target any group in any direction.

The proliferation of qaunts with an Asian connection or origin can be traced to several factors.
The subject of math is taught in a very different way in India and China and I believe great emphasis is given to use of memory-people's not calculator's. This makes those students inherently stronger in visualizing math steps mentally.
........
................
Then there is the socio-economic connection: computational finance is one of the most challenging areas of study at a master's degree level. As potential immigrants, students of non-American origin are more open to taking up the challenge for a better life and future and to realize their version of the American dream.
.......
I do not believe any group is trying to avoid the subject as a group. Generally, I would think there are much fewer openings for managers of quants than quants.
 
Cofibreak brings up a valid point.
As immigrants or international students, Asian students focus on majors that potentially reward a good financial future and exemplifies their strong math/engineering background. They are more practical in term of how to get the best return for their hard earned money.
You see very few who are into liberal arts. Most Asian kids you see doing liberal arts majors are probably grown up in the states where they were taught since grade school that do what you really passion about.

If you are a kid growing up in Asia, your parents wouldn't encourage you to take up those courses. Instead, they would want you to do something that would help in obtaining a stable career and income cash flow. That means doctor, dentist, engineer, science, etc.

So in short, this has very much to do with cultural difference and how one is brought up to think about his future career.
 
Good point, Andy:) Thank you so much for such a brilliant thread. Dominic gave a very insightful interview here.

As to the question of why most quants (to-be) are foreign born, as Asian student with liberal Art background yet ended up with complete this MFE program and working in risk management, sometimes I would find very hard to get too deep with discussion of math with PHDs. But what I learnt about Math, Stat, Stochastic, Programming does equip me to accomplish what I want to do.
The reason that I was trained extensively in science diciplines back in my home country was not simply "return oriented". The education system is "forcing" students to be versatile...Don't know about India and other countries :). Correct me if I am wrong.

But no matter what country you are originated, I don't think that's an issue for employers and for the works you are facing...
Good luck everyone!
 

DominiConnor

Quant Headhunter
What do you think is the reason why the majority of quants are foreign-born?
You want my view ? You won't like it.

The USA has been as net importer of talent for all it's history, originally because it was a new country, but now because it's education system's quality is often 3rd world. Even in Iran, kids are rarely taught Intelligent Design. Poor educations seems to correlate with all the English speaking nations. The City of London is in the same position as Wall Street, but the statistics don't show Britain as scraping the bottom in maths like the USA because the UK bureaucrats submitted their numbers wrong. Yes, really.

Quant finance does not require you to sell things much. Americans like many other nationalities prefer to buy from "people like them". In a diverse culture that's a fuzzy term, but someone straight off the plane from China or India is not. That means an ambitious foreigner will tend to avoid sales type roles.
Als oyou don't need capital to be become a successful quant. Or rather you do need capital, but banks will provide it. An immigrant who wants $100K to start a business will have problems, IBs regard that as petty cash.

Investment Banks aren't very racist in their hiring, which means that foreign born would cluster there in any case.

Immigrants have always focused at first on getting money, not looking cool. In the USA science is not seen as cool, and way less cool than religion. Would GW Bush meet a noble prize winner for physics off the plane like he did the Pope ?

There's also a bit of a snowball effect. Unconsciously, one has a picture of a "typical" person in a given profession, and for quants that is not tightly bound to white males, unlike some other lines of work. Indeed there's enough non-WMs in the intreview process that it would actually be quite hard for banks to systematically discriminate against foreigners.
Science is more portable than many other things you will learn in foreign countries, and most quants have a science/maths background.
 
I also think it's rare for Americans (and by this I mean third-generation and onward) to do graduate study in any discipline, but especially math and science for the reasons mentioned above. I'm pretty sure there's a disproportionate number of international students in almost every US grad program except maybe MFA ;) I guess it's slowly becoming more common for Americans to pursue graduate degrees, but I think most prefer to enter the job force immediately. This is especially true of the American engineering majors I know. They're all running off to make war machines at the likes of Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, etc.

As a second-gen American with parents from an Asian country, my parents always pushed me to take math + science courses and get a degree in something useful ("useful" means electrical engineering). I'm pretty sure I'd be studying historical linguistics now if I'd grown up in a more "American" household. After a few years I decided EE really isn't my thing (I detest the hardware side), but I do like math and programming and FE seemed right up my alley. So instead of switching majors, I decided to take prereq courses like probability, stochastic processes, PDE, etc. and apply for MFE programs.
 
Someone above said "Americans are avoiding the [MFE] field". As a paleface midwesterner who's spent much of my life as a practicing engineer here in USA, I would say most engineers and software folk are "avoiding" the field through obscurity. Not a lot of people in technology know such a thing as a 'quant' exists. If they knew what the pay differential is between quant work and their own, I think you'd see more interest. Of course, a lot of engineers would rather avoid working in the New York area, where their salary barely puts them in the middle class.

Which gets to one reason Americans avoid science and math - the expectation is that the payoff just isn't there. The field suffers from what one writer referred to as a "Status-Income Disequlibria" - math oriented fields are seen as "loser" fields despite their income and contribution to the economy. Also, many companies seem to regard engineering ability as somehow optional for their IT and engineering managers, meaning lots of business majors think they can skip the hard math courses and still boss around engineers who will, of course, earn less than them. And the fact that many people think India and China have infinite supplies of technically brilliant scientists and engineers does nothing to help the situation.
 
For a recent MFE graduate looking to join a trading desk, which type of desk is better, flow desk or prop desk and why? Hedge fund or IB?

You'll learn more on a prop desk, but some firms have flow trading as part of a structured process by which you get a picture of the whole business which makes you more effective. So flow is good as *part* of your training, but not so good if it's *all* you do, and prop is a steeper learning curve but you don't go so deep.
I'm particularly interested in learning what is the natural progression of someone from a prop desk after 2,3 years. Is prop to flow considered backward transition? Or HF the logical next step?
From your experience as HH, where do you see people on prop desk usually go to?
 
Thank you for the interview and your insight, Dominic. I have been reading your posts on various messageboards for some time, so it's great that you could address Quantnet personally!
 
This interview was very informative, thank you. I had been wondering how women were viewed in the profession.

I think the number of women in Financial Engineering are probably lacking because the number of women that go into Science at all are lacking compared to men. I am often the only woman in my Computer Science classes, sometimes 1 out of 2. I attend Stevens Institute of Technology, where the enrollment is only about 30% female.

This may not be incredibly relevant, but I agree also about foreign student's english. Many of the TAs at Stevens are graduate students who cannot speak English understandably. They have to do well on the TOEFL to be accepted at Stevens, so clearly that test is not a good indicator. A lot of foreign students also tend to run in cliques within their own ethnic group, especially when their English isn't very good. They definitely do miss out on a lot of networking, which is probably the one skill Stevens ingrains in you, though outside the classroom. So perhaps these failures are not unique to FE, but start even in the undergraduate experience.

-Katie
 

DominiConnor

Quant Headhunter
I agree, poor English skills hurt some ethnic groups big time, Chinese people have the biggest opportunity to improve their career options by spending more time outside their group.

Also, it's true that this is not a problem that is specific to students of finance. I first observed it as an undergrad many years ago, and it's actually got worse, not better.

The reason I see it as being worse in FE is partly down to the high tuition and living cost relative to average earnings in the home country. Also of course, the perception is that quant work does not require such good English skills, which is partly true, so FE gets a different slice of the distribution.
A variant on that perception is that they will return to China (or other emerging nation) and bring Western skills back. That's a valid position, but not one that is well thought through.

To get the most of a MFE, you need to spend at least some time working in a western firm, so as to integrate theory and practice. From that position you are truly valuable, but you halve your value by just studying. So English is important.

(I had to rewrite this several times...)
 

alain

Older and Wiser
... A lot of foreign students also tend to run in cliques within their own ethnic group, especially when their English isn't very good. They definitely do miss out on a lot of networking, which is probably the one skill Stevens ingrains in you, though outside the classroom. So perhaps these failures are not unique to FE, but start even in the undergraduate experience.

This is 100% true. When we interview somebody at my job, the first question in the feedback is usually if the candidate is able to communicate or not.
 
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