Top math PhD looking for advice

Hi all,
This is my first post here and I'm looking for some advice. In three years I will get my PhD in PURE math from a very top university (if everything goes smoothly, ofc!). When I started the PhD my intention was to pursue a career in academia, but I subsequently changed my mind and came to realize that actually the academic route is not for me, for several reasons but mainly because of low pay, and I started to get informed about jobs in finance. Ideally, after I graduate I would like to join a top quant hedge fund like 2sigma, DE Shaw or Renaissance.
At the moment my coding skills and my knowledge of stats are both very basic, but, if I decide to go down this route, I believe that three years is enough time for me to improve.
However, I have recently been told (by an ex employee at one of those funds with a background very similar to mine) that those jobs are not as good as they might appear, for the following two (related) reasons:
1) there is a lot of instability. The risk of getting laid off after 5 years is real and somewhat outside of your control.
2) there is no clear path to career advancement toward PM.
According to him, working as a quant at those places is a bit like being in a limbo: very high starting salary but little room for growth and a lot of uncertainty about the future. He himself left (or was let go, I did not get that) for a leetcoding job in tech. Always according to him, the pay in tech is also good and the job is more secure, but career-wise you're even more set on a dead-end path, meaning that you should not expect any further promotions/advancements after the age of 40-45.
His advice for me was to actually go in another direction: get a top MBA and try to make it into a managerial role. Actually, this was one alternative I was already considering before speaking with him, since coming from a pure math background for the time being I still don't have the professional knowledge required for any job, and I am only slightly closer to a techincal role than I am to a managerial one, meaning that my current skill set is not good for any of them, and that I would need to retrain in both case, either as a software engineer/data scientist (which I could presumably do in my free time) or as a manager (by means of an MBA). (At the moment, my only knowledge of finance is in option pricing (CAPM, discrete time, Black Scholes -- I know this well) which unfortunately is a topic that quant hedge funds seem not to care about.)

What are your thoughts on all of this? I welcome any suggestions or observations. Thanks!
 

Daniel Duffy

C++ author, trainer
What kind of PURE maths?

At the moment my coding skills and my knowledge of stats are both very basic, but, if I decide to go down this route, I believe that three years is enough time for me to improve.

A rough guess is that quants (even Serie A ones) spend > 70% of their time programming. The message is clear.

My advice learn C++ and Python, post haste.


// what's a very top university ?
 
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What kind of PURE maths?

At the moment my coding skills and my knowledge of stats are both very basic, but, if I decide to go down this route, I believe that three years is enough time for me to improve.

A rough guess is that quants (even Serie A ones) spend > 70% of their time programming. The message is clear.

My advice learn C++ and Python, post haste.


// what's a very top university ?
Thanks for the answer.

My research is in analysis with some applications to differential geometry. By "very top" I mean consistently ranked in the top3 (at worse top5) graduate math programs in the world.

Can you please comment also on the issues about the stability of the quant job in hedge funds and the possibilities of career advancements (i.e. making it to pm) after 40/45?

Thanks again.
 

Daniel Duffy

C++ author, trainer
Thanks for the answer.

My research is in analysis with some applications to differential geometry. By "very top" I mean consistently ranked in the top3 (at worse top5) graduate math programs in the world.

Can you please comment also on the issues about the stability of the quant job in hedge funds and the possibilities of career advancements (i.e. making it to pm) after 40/45?

Thanks again.
Sorry, can't comment on life after 40/45, how long is a piece of string?
If you keep alert, you can move in your career I would say.

But you are a long way off from 45. In the short term there's a lot to do. Differential geometry is quite far away from the kind of maths used and applied in finance.
 
Sorry, can't comment on life after 40/45, how long is a piece of string?
If you keep alert, you can move in your career I would say.

But you are a long way off from 45. In the short term there's a lot to do.
Well yeah, but when choosing a path it is a good thing to know where it leads, isn't it? It would not be nice to put in a lot of effort, make it, and then at 35 realize that in 5 more years I will reach a dead end in my career. And 35 is not so far away, actually.
 

Daniel Duffy

C++ author, trainer
Prediction is difficult, especially predicting the future.
Never too olld to change careeer. Many people do it.

3 years in PhD land is long time; it is not like doing an MSc.
 
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Your friend is absolutely correct about this proffession. So yeah, you might get promoted fast if you are talented but capped around 700k (if you make it to ED in sell side or senior quant in buy side). At the age of 45 you are however most likely set (for technical role). The only way to go higher is to go managerial role/MD/PM etc.

Except for,

(At the moment, my only knowledge of finance is in option pricing (CAPM, discrete time, Black Scholes -- I know this well) which unfortunately is a topic that quant hedge funds seem not to care about.)

This is actually not correct. It depends on the assets they are good at. If it is Citadel/Jane St, yeah they don't care. If it is SIG/Optiver, they do care. If it is exotic derivatives in sell side, that's all they care about.

Exit opportunity wise, it is just sell side to buy side or buy side to sell side LMAO. You will still be Quant, still be pigeionhole. Another exit is to become leetcode SWE as what your friend did.
 
Your friend is absolutely correct about this proffession. So yeah, you might get promoted fast if you are talented but capped around 700k (if you make it to ED in sell side or senior quant in buy side). At the age of 45 you are however most likely set (for technical role). The only way to go higher is to go managerial role/MD/PM etc.

Except for,

(At the moment, my only knowledge of finance is in option pricing (CAPM, discrete time, Black Scholes -- I know this well) which unfortunately is a topic that quant hedge funds seem not to care about.)

This is actually not correct. It depends on the assets they are good at. If it is Citadel/Jane St, yeah they don't care. If it is SIG/Optiver, they do care. If it is exotic derivatives in sell side, that's all they care about.

Exit opportunity wise, it is just sell side to buy side or buy side to sell side LMAO. You will still be Quant, still be pigeionhole. Another exit is to become leetcode SWE as what your friend did.
Thank you very much, super informative answer. I have three follow up questions if you don't mind.

1) How hard is it to make it to PM? My friend told me that it is quite hard but that this is not even the main problem. In his opinion the main problem is that most PMs have a very short lifespan, meaning that the majority gets fired after 1-2 years due to underperformance.

2) He also told me that the pay for an average PM is in the 1-5M range, can you confirm that?

3) Generally speaking, would you recommend the quant career to a student like myself? Or do you see anything better, even in a completely different direction? To be honest, to me, despite the difficulties that we've just mentioned, the quant career path still seems promising, and for what I know (very little, unfortunately) the 700k pay is on par with the average pay in the other high-end jobs in finance like IB, PE and consulting. Am I missing something? I ask because, as I mentioned in the body of the question, my friend is somewhat pessimistic about the job prospects and initially suggested that I do an MBA instead (then he changed his mind slightly when he realized that it would be difficult for me to get into a top MBA program soon after the PhD without work experience, and that by the time I have some work experience I will be to old).

Thank you again and sorry if my questions are naive, I'm doing my best to try to understand a world very different from the one I grew up in!
 
Thank you very much, super informative answer. I have three follow up questions if you don't mind.

1) How hard is it to make it to PM? My friend told me that it is quite hard but that this is not even the main problem. In his opinion the main problem is that most PMs have a very short lifespan, meaning that the majority gets fired after 1-2 years due to underperformance.

2) He also told me that the pay for an average PM is in the 1-5M range, can you confirm that?

3) Generally speaking, would you recommend the quant career to a student like myself? Or do you see anything better, even in a completely different direction? To be honest, to me, despite the difficulties that we've just mentioned, the quant career path still seems promising, and for what I know (very little, unfortunately) the 700k pay is on par with the average pay in the other high-end jobs in finance like IB, PE and consulting. Am I missing something? I ask because, as I mentioned in the body of the question, my friend is somewhat pessimistic about the job prospects and initially suggested that I do an MBA instead (then he changed his mind slightly when he realized that it would be difficult for me to get into a top MBA program soon after the PhD without work experience, and that by the time I have some work experience I will be to old).

Thank you again and sorry if my questions are naive, I'm doing my best to try to understand a world very different from the one I grew up in!
1) i think quite hard but possible. confirm if you don't make money

2) that i can't because i am not there yet :)

3) that hits the points. even if you can't make it to PM, you can still sit at 700k job without doing much It is not as risky as those 1-5M job. Effectively it becomes a tech job.

And finally, you raise a good question. Yeah quant sounds boring as an exit. But what else is better as the high-end job you refers to.
 
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