What is the job satisfaction of financial engineers?

I would actually be interested in this too - I'm considering leaving the actuarial profession to pursue an MFE but would like to know more about the lifestyle of a quant. Here are some of my questions for those working in quant finance or have graduated from an MFE program a few years back:

1) What type of position do you work at (e.g. trading, risk management, developer, etc.)

2) How many hours per week do you work on average? Is the work stressful?

3) People are obsessed with the "big pay" on wallstreet, how realistic is this? Did your pay line up with expectations? How is the potential growth in compensation?

4) Is the field generally a meritocracy? Are communication skills valued, or is it purely quantitative skills that matter?

5) Are there jobs outside of NYC? If not, are you locked into NYC for a long time?

6) What are the exit opportunities like several years down the road?

7) Do you like the people you work with? Why or why not?

8) What do you spend most of your time on at work?

9) What is the one thing you wish you knew before getting into this type of work? Would you have changed anything about your career progression if you knew this ahead of time?

10) (generic) what do you like most/least about your job?

The type of work definitely appeals to me, I just want to make sure I know what I'm getting into. If you can respond I would appreciate it very much. These forums are great.

Thank you!
 
1) ad-hoc development/data work
2) Wildly varies depending on workload. 40 sometimes, 70 if I feel like it (get scolded if I go past 50-60ish)
3) Pay isn't wildly spectacular...yet. It lines up with a first-year probationary salary in a small firm, and my former internship boss pays his first-time programmers $50k. However, potential growth in compensation is through the roof. According to some numbers I've heard, if you're really productive, it's easy to get well into the 6 figs five years out.
4) It's never a meritocracy. As the CEO of FIXFlyer told me on my way out: "The workplace is not a meritocracy. It is not a democracy. It is an autocracy. Your job is to make the guy above you look good." That said, at smaller companies, your contributions will be noted. As for communication skills, very much so. My closest coworker makes a huge sticking point about how I didn't develop these in favor of just putting everything into my left-side-of-the-brain engineering skills.
5) Hello from Chicago.
6) Considering this is a shop that heavily depends on R, I'd guess that exit opportunities depend on A) if I can learn to be a profitable algo trader B) how much coding experience I get with R C) how often I wind up dealing with massive data sets. Edit: I don't plan on leaving this firm in the foreseeable future, so IMO that's not a good question to ask. You shouldn't be going to a firm thinking about exit opportunities.
7) Yes. They're generally very nice people.
8) Currently, ad-hoc work using my R skills to write scripts that help out with managing data.
9) The necessity of a programming background, and not so much an econ/finance background. If I knew this ahead of time, I would have involved myself far more in my programming coursework rather than think I'd never need it as an actuary >_<
10) Most: really flexible working hours. Since I might get ad-hoc assignments in the day and my most vital role is at night, I get to come in later and take a break between my day stuff and the night stuff for a nap/gym (live 5 minutes away by walk).
 
1) ad-hoc development/data work
2) Wildly varies depending on workload. 40 sometimes, 70 if I feel like it (get scolded if I go past 50-60ish) Any reason they scold you for working over 50-60? Seems like they should want you to work as hard as possible.
3) Pay isn't wildly spectacular...yet. It lines up with a first-year probationary salary in a small firm, and my former internship boss pays his first-time programmers $50k. However, potential growth in compensation is through the roof. According to some numbers I've heard, if you're really productive, it's easy to get well into the 6 figs five years out.
4) It's never a meritocracy. As the CEO of FIXFlyer told me on my way out: "The workplace is not a meritocracy. It is not a democracy. It is an autocracy. Your job is to make the guy above you look good." That said, at smaller companies, your contributions will be noted. As for communication skills, very much so. My closest coworker makes a huge sticking point about how I didn't develop these in favor of just putting everything into my left-side-of-the-brain engineering skills. Excellent points, thanks. I guess everywhere you go it's about making the guy above you look good. Good to hear that communication skills are valuable.
5) Hello from Chicago. Likewise, love the nonstop rain lately.
6) Considering this is a shop that heavily depends on R, I'd guess that exit opportunities depend on A) if I can learn to be a profitable algo trader B) how much coding experience I get with R C) how often I wind up dealing with massive data sets. Edit: I don't plan on leaving this firm in the foreseeable future, so IMO that's not a good question to ask. You shouldn't be going to a firm thinking about exit opportunities. If the long time salary potential is there, then I agree you shouldn't be too worried about exit ops. But in general I think it's a very important thing to consider.
7) Yes. They're generally very nice people.
8) Currently, ad-hoc work using my R skills to write scripts that help out with managing data.
9) The necessity of a programming background, and not so much an econ/finance background. If I knew this ahead of time, I would have involved myself far more in my programming coursework rather than think I'd never need it as an actuary >_<. That's awesome that you used to be an actuary. Could you tell me more about your transition to working quant finance? I'd like to hear more about your background (ie. did you attend an MFE program?) I am currently working as an actuary in consulting, but I am looking to get out.
10) Most: really flexible working hours. Since I might get ad-hoc assignments in the day and my most vital role is at night, I get to come in later and take a break between my day stuff and the night stuff for a nap/gym (live 5 minutes away by walk).

Thanks for the response Ilya, some great insights here. A couple of follow-up questions and comments above in red :)
 
The scolding: because I need to be absolutely on top of my game for the 2-3 hours at nights.

Longtime salary potential: as I said, it's only what I heard.

Exit opps: just to better answer the question, the advice I was given was that in the financial industry (at least within a city), two phone calls separate anyone from anyone else. Aka, someone who wanted to find out about me could make a couple of calls and find someone who knows me. So you get where you go from alums of your current firm I'd imagine.

I used to want to be an actuary. If you consider an actuarial intern an actuary, yeah, fine, well, no, I didn't get an MFE. Rutgers's MS stats overlapped with its MSMF in several places including time series, which I think is vital to anyone going into the technical end of the financial industry, and I did well enough for myself that someone who was open-minded enough at least considered to give me an aptitude test and I impressed enough to land the job I did.
 
I would love to hear some more responses to my questions above. Seems like most on the forum are aspiring quants, rather than those who have been working in the industry for a while.

I do enjoy the "day in the life" on the front-page articles.
 
I spent three years of undergrad asking people these very questions (I studied a bit as well ;)) and taking the appropriate courses for both professions. My probability professor has been an actuary for 20 years now so I got to hear from him as well:

Heres the general idea:

1) Actuary starting salary starts on average lower than quant salary. Not much, but still lower.

2) Actuary is a low-pressure 9-5 job. Quants usually work longer hours and feel more heat from their bosses. As a direct result, successful quants who can handle the heat seem to do better financially in the long run.

3) Long term salary of both jobs on average is in the $125,000 range.

4) The real successful quants and actuaries can earn double or even triple the above salaries.

From my research the general idea is that if you want an above-averag paying job with average or less stress (and a whole lot of exams) then actuary might be your route. If you don't mind pressure, are smart ;) , and feel like you will be that guy, then go be a quant!
 
Sounds that quant job is really challenging!

I am also an actuary working in risk management areas. To me, a career in actuarial is rather stable (and as said, less stressful)- 3 years to be an associate (assistant manager), 5 years to be an actuarial manager, 8 years to be a senior actuarial manager, 10-15 to be an appointed actuary.

I am also looking into a career in quant! I don't like the routine works of actuaries; it is not really challenging... Quant seems to be the right one for me... anyone moved into quant with actuarial background?
 
Sounds that quant job is really challenging!

... anyone moved into quant with actuarial background?

If you check the SOA directory and filter by the names of large banks, you can see that there are quite some people that have switched from actuarial to quant (some list the MFE as the highest degree). I am looking to do the same thing - newly minted FSA, attending school for my masters next week in hope of switching. :)
 
1) What type of position do you work at (e.g. trading, risk management, developer, etc.)
Quant developer and then some. I know finance better than I know programming, and I am responsible for pieces of our multi asset model.

2) How many hours per week do you work on average? Is the work stressful?
40. The most I've worked in one week was 50. No, it isn't stressful, because I'm not responsible for other people's money and I have no real performance goals beyond doing my job (which I am perfectly capable of meeting). I am not eligible for bonuses, either, which reduces stress.

3) People are obsessed with the "big pay" on wallstreet, how realistic is this? Did your pay line up with expectations? How is the potential growth in compensation?
My pay is higher than I expected going into graduate school and it is now lower than I think I'm worth. I make $100k in Boston.

4) Is the field generally a meritocracy? Are communication skills valued, or is it purely quantitative skills that matter?
This is very dependent on where you are and who your manager is. Communication in any business is crucial, but it is less important in a strictly programming shop. A quant that cannot communicate with the front office is at a disadvantage.

5) Are there jobs outside of NYC? If not, are you locked into NYC for a long time?
Yes. Chicago, Boston, San Francisco.

6) What are the exit opportunities like several years down the road?
People generally specialize in something. Exit opportunities tend to be to get paid more for having the same knowledge in a different capacity (go into consulting, become a PM, etc.), or start a firm.

7) Do you like the people you work with? Why or why not?
Mostly. I have no reason not to like my peers, as I hardly need to interact with them to do my job and they don't get in my way. The people that I'm doing the work for are generally appreciative and impressed, so there's little to complain about there.

8) What do you spend most of your time on at work?
Optimizing my code in downtime and waiting for a request. I'm the closest to a researcher among the developers, so I routinely build prototype code very fast to accommodate someone's idea, and good ideas will usually be migrated to a production system by another developer.

9) What is the one thing you wish you knew before getting into this type of work? Would you have changed anything about your career progression if you knew this ahead of time?
People in technology roles are typically confined to technology roles. I've essentially guaranteed that I won't progress to a PM for instance, not that I really wanted to anyway. I might have preferred pursuing quant analysis more than I did, but I generally undersold myself and doubted my ability until I actually saw how much worse other people are.

10) (generic) what do you like most/least about your job?
What I like is a consequence of what I don't like. I don't like that I'm in this limbo where I don't have the authority to do whatever, whenever I want, so I am often slowed down from waiting for management decisions. I do like, however, that there isn't anyone micromanaging me or monitoring me (i.e. I can read quantnet when I should be "working").
 
1) What type of position do you work at (e.g. trading, risk management, developer, etc.)
quant fixed income research

2) How many hours per week do you work on average? Is the work stressful?
60 not stressful cuz i dont handle money

3) People are obsessed with the "big pay" on wallstreet, how realistic is this? Did your pay line up with expectations? How is the potential growth in compensation?
realistic for ppl up in the food chain, not for me. my pay is below my expectation, as i dont have graduate degree like my peers do and my manager initially took a long shot at me. my potential growth in comp is relatively high - they have to do a 60% increase to my base comp to match every1 else in the next level.

4) Is the field generally a meritocracy? Are communication skills valued, or is it purely quantitative skills that matter?
sort of . communication skills r very valued. u dont have to be a genius to do quant. resonable quant skills will suffice

5) Are there jobs outside of NYC? If not, are you locked into NYC for a long time?
yes

6) What are the exit opportunities like several years down the road?
more research, different research, pm, consulting, analytics, etc.

7) Do you like the people you work with? Why or why not?
yes. they r not assholes

8) What do you spend most of your time on at work?
interest rate models, curve construction, derivative valuation... reading paper, do matlab/c++ emulator of wat the paper is proposing, run some empirical test, modify the model see if results get better, compare to existing model, if the new model is sound and becoming industry standard, suggest to traders/pms, then may run to production

9) What is the one thing you wish you knew before getting into this type of work? Would you have changed anything about your career progression if you knew this ahead of time?
i would enroll in a target school and do management consulting instead. they get paid a lot higher for solving problems. i love dat

10) (generic) what do you like most/least about your job?
solving problems, not paid nearly as good as ppl in real front office
 
No. Most quants lack training in accounting, which prevents them from working in corporate finance, private equity, etc. It happens, to be sure, but more as the exception than the rule.

Also, many quants are lacking in communication skills, which keeps them out of many areas.
Aha. I see, thanks for the insight. So would that mean that, for example, the knowledge of quants in a field like risk management specializes in IBs and doesn't necessarily correlate with that which is essential for private corporations?

Moreover, could some quants with sufficient skills in Matlab or C++ end up in more programming-oriented jobs that have little to do with the financial sector? I'm just curious as to whether these could also serve as exit strategies.
 

Ken Abbott

Managing Director
Aha. I see, thanks for the insight. So would that mean that, for example, the knowledge of quants in a field like risk management specializes in IBs and doesn't necessarily correlate with that which is essential for private corporations?

Moreover, could some quants with sufficient skills in Matlab or C++ end up in more programming-oriented jobs that have little to do with the financial sector? I'm just curious as to whether these could also serve as exit strategies.
The term "Risk Management" varies considerably from firm to firm and industry to industry. In Finance, it means market, credit, ops risk. Elswhere it usually means insurance.

Most trading is handled by the treasury in corporate America.
 
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