• C++ Programming for Financial Engineering
    Highly recommended by thousands of MFE students. Covers essential C++ topics with applications to financial engineering. Learn more Join!
    Python for Finance with Intro to Data Science
    Gain practical understanding of Python to read, understand, and write professional Python code for your first day on the job. Learn more Join!
    An Intuition-Based Options Primer for FE
    Ideal for entry level positions interviews and graduate studies, specializing in options trading arbitrage and options valuation models. Learn more Join!

Q/A with Todd Fahey (Quant Headhunter)

Todd Fahey

Quant Recruiter
I am very excited to see this post come to surface again.

I have heard that networking and meeting people in quantitative finance is one of the best ways to secure interviews, but what can I do if I do not live near one of the major financial centers. I am entering my third year as a Ph.D. student at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. While Atlanta is a large city with many banks, many of their investment banking units are not located here.

I have two questions related to this. First, how do you recommend I make contact with people in the field? Are cold calls for informational interviews worthwhile? Second, I am looking for opportunities for research projects. I would like to approach someone working in quantitative finance to pickup a project so that I can get some hands on experience. Do you have any recommendations for making such an approach, given many potential contacts would be outside the Atlanta area?

Best answers I can give:

1. Contact your alumni relations and career center and see if they can give you contact info for Georgia Tech alumni in the quantitative finance profession. Globally. You never know where an opportunity may exist...

2. That question I can't help you with, I'm afraid. Your best bet - see answer #1.

Best of luck.
 

Todd Fahey

Quant Recruiter
Hi Todd,
Thank you very much for all your insights. I like how it is often harsh but true. Anyway, I have a few questions I'd like to ask you as well.

1. I'm graduating from master program next year and will hope to apply my quantitative skills in researching/investigating/testing trading ideas. (I believe this is called the quant analyst/quant research, am I correct?) I don't want to develop software. Are there still hedge funds or prop shops out there looking for entry level candidates like me in these roles?

2. I understand that C/C++ is very important. However, since I'm not looking into software development, I think R or Matlab will suffice for my desired role. I want to know how important C/C++ is for quant research in the perspective of employers? This will help me decide on how to plan my course selection.

I apologize if some of my questions are rather naive. It's not that I have not searched old threads for answers. I just couldn't find clear cut explanations.

Answers:

1. You will absolutely be developing software if you expect / anticipate getting a sole as a quantitative strategist at any of the 'big' quant shops. Not to dissuade you - but it is a fact that you need to be capable of writing production-quality code. It's a very competitive landscape these days with regard to hiring. While I have no direct insight to entry-level roles, I would have to think that they exist.

2. R and Matlab tend to be used for prototyping, but not used in actual live trading systems (to my knowledge, none of my clients use them in production - though I suppose it is possible). C++ is the de facto language utilized in trading systems, though some use Java, C# / .NET and/or Python exists, as well.

As clear as I can be: if you intend to get into the quantitative finance profession as a quant / strategist / financial engineer, get this indelibly stamped into your brains - YOU WILL BE WRITING CODE. LOTS AND LOTS OF CODE. I can't make it any clearer. If writing code is offensive to you - any of you - you may want to consider a different career path.
 
Best answers I can give:

1. Contact your alumni relations and career center and see if they can give you contact info for Georgia Tech alumni in the quantitative finance profession. Globally. You never know where an opportunity may exist...

2. That question I can't help you with, I'm afraid. Your best bet - see answer #1.

Best of luck.
Thank you Todd! Reaching out to an Alumni network seems like a good place to start. Once the first contact is made, the network should keep on growing.
 
Answers:

1. You will absolutely be developing software if you expect / anticipate getting a sole as a quantitative strategist at any of the 'big' quant shops. Not to dissuade you - but it is a fact that you need to be capable of writing production-quality code. It's a very competitive landscape these days with regard to hiring. While I have no direct insight to entry-level roles, I would have to think that they exist.

2. R and Matlab tend to be used for prototyping, but not used in actual live trading systems (to my knowledge, none of my clients use them in production - though I suppose it is possible). C++ is the de facto language utilized in trading systems, though some use Java, C# / .NET and/or Python exists, as well.

As clear as I can be: if you intend to get into the quantitative finance profession as a quant / strategist / financial engineer, get this indelibly stamped into your brains - YOU WILL BE WRITING CODE. LOTS AND LOTS OF CODE. I can't make it any clearer. If writing code is offensive to you - any of you - you may want to consider a different career path.

Thanks a lot Todd. Just to make sure, you are saying that at most firms, the line between quant developer and quant analyst is blurred. This means that one has to be able to both research investment ideas and write software/system to implement it. So what does it mean when firms advertise jobs separately for quant developer and quant analyst/research? In this case, does it mean that the quant developer is basically an IT role in the front office? I know it's a gross simplification, but I hope you get the point of my question.
 

Todd Fahey

Quant Recruiter
Thanks a lot Todd. Just to make sure, you are saying that at most firms, the line between quant developer and quant analyst is blurred. This means that one has to be able to both research investment ideas and write software/system to implement it. So what does it mean when firms advertise jobs separately for quant developer and quant analyst/research? In this case, does it mean that the quant developer is basically an IT role in the front office? I know it's a gross simplification, but I hope you get the point of my question.

I believe I get your point, but I think you may need a bit of education regarding roles and responsibilities. This is a 'generic' explanation, but it kinda looks like this:

Quantitative modelers / researchers tend to be PhD's and tend to be wholly focused on the creation of new models and/or enhancing existing models. Quantitative strategists (commonly referred to as 'desk' strategists) could be anything from PhD's to MFE's/MSCF's to undergrads (or, rarely, no degree at all) and basically work on the 'mechanics' of models, risk calculators, trading platforms, etc. in support of the trading desk. Quantitative developers tend to be exactly what you think they are: strong programmers who have a strong quantitative / mathematical finance background (either through education, on-the-job training or self-taught) and are capable of supporting the trading and modeling efforts through their programming abilities.
 
Hello Todd,
I am a Physics PhD., and have been working for 4+ years for NASA. I am very good at programming in C++, Python, root, etc. languages. I am also very good in simulations, modeling etc., performing them routinely in my projects. As an example, for some of my projects I model the regions in the sky described by 1M+ events with 100-200 parameters, and I handle each region one by one or 100+ sky regions simultaneously. So, I am very proficient in handling large data sets, parameterizing and fitting data with well-known models.
I am considering leaving academia and I was wondering if the quant jobs would be a right career path for me, or if my skills would be relevant in this area. If so, what kind of preparation you would advise me to do before applying jobs in this field.
 
Hi Todd,

When I was reading through this thread, I noticed that you stated that you have seen people with no degrees all the way up to phd's being hired. Obviously there has to be something separating them and being hired. I also noticed that alot of these jobs in the financial industry require previous experience and/or a portfolio of at least 3-5 years. Are there other alternatives that help you to distinguish yourself from others?
 

Todd Fahey

Quant Recruiter
Hello Todd,
I am a Physics PhD., and have been working for 4+ years for NASA. I am very good at programming in C++, Python, root, etc. languages. I am also very good in simulations, modeling etc., performing them routinely in my projects. As an example, for some of my projects I model the regions in the sky described by 1M+ events with 100-200 parameters, and I handle each region one by one or 100+ sky regions simultaneously. So, I am very proficient in handling large data sets, parameterizing and fitting data with well-known models.
I am considering leaving academia and I was wondering if the quant jobs would be a right career path for me, or if my skills would be relevant in this area. If so, what kind of preparation you would advise me to do before applying jobs in this field.
Send me an email (fahey@sheffieldhaworth.com) and we can discuss. Thanks.
 

Todd Fahey

Quant Recruiter
Hi Todd,

When I was reading through this thread, I noticed that you stated that you have seen people with no degrees all the way up to phd's being hired. Obviously there has to be something separating them and being hired. I also noticed that alot of these jobs in the financial industry require previous experience and/or a portfolio of at least 3-5 years. Are there other alternatives that help you to distinguish yourself from others?
Could you give me an idea as to what you are looking to get in terms of information here? There are many ways to distinguish yourself, assuming you have the talent and skills to do so: Fulbright and Rhodes scholarships; Putnam rankings; innovations that have commercial viability; etc.
 
Also, from what I've heard from a high-frequency trading partner that I regularly speak to, if you can assemble a strategy in your favorite backtesting package, you may be able to get funding for it at some shop.
 
Hi Todd

This is a replication of a post I submitted elsewhere in the forum. However, I have since read your responses in here, and would be interested in your thoughts.

I am considering a career change to the quant field later this year, and am looking for some general advice about whether this is realistic given my background.

I am a pensions actuary working in the UK with circa 2 years post-qualification experience. I have a 1st class honours degree in Maths, but no PhD or masters. I expect that my actuarial studies will have covered the relevant financial mathematics (derivative pricing, etc.) I have no programming experience currently (though I work a lot with Excel) but I intend to take a C++ course over the next few months to get me up to speed.

I note that most employers require PhDs/Masters as a minimum requirement, as well as strong programming skills. I am hoping you are going to tell me that my actuarial experience will provide me with adequate post grad education to mean that pursuing a career change is realistic, but I am not sure if this is the case! I would be grateful for your views on this.

To be frank, I do not want to pour my efforts into developing my programming skills over the next six months to find out that a lack of PhD is going to work against me.

Many thanks.

CA
 
Hi Todd,

In case you are still active in this post I have a question regarding the choice of masters degree. Namely, I want to work in a role of a quant in systematic/algo trading. I am currently finishing my undergrad in computer science and I have a solid programming knowledge and experience in many areas of artificial intelligence (mostly machine learning and NLP).

The question I have is, for the role I want to work in, would it be better for me to go for an MFE or MSCF programme or for an Advanced degree in Artificial Intelligence (i.e. focusing on things like neural networks for option pricing or sentiment text mining of big data)?

Thanks for your help!
 
Last edited:
Hello Todd,

Firstly, thank you so much for the valuable information that you've bestowed upon all the current MFE students and aspirants. I am a Mechanical Engineering student and an MFE aspirant.
Being from an engineering background, how probable are my chances for getting into a good MFE program. probably in some of the good universities that you've mentioned. What are the things that I could do at under-graduate level to build up a strong profile to be a strong candidate for this program. Also, is under-graduate research work a good boost in my profile for this program, since this program is very professional and industry oriented?
 
Top