While many financial professionals are concerned about job security and plummeting compensation, at least one segment remains healthy: quantitative analytics.
Mid- to high-level professionals with advanced degrees in quantitative fields and work experience are a hot commodity in Chicago, says Jim Geiger, vice president at Analytic Recruiting, a New York-based firm with a strong presence in the lake-front city. "Someone with a Ph.D. in a quant science is very attractive in the Chicago market right now," he says.
Prop Shops Hiring
"Firms with strongest demand are trading firms," according to Kevin Krumm, partner at Objective Paradigm, a Chicago-based recruiting firm. The need for quantitative talent is particularly robust among proprietary trading shops in Chicago, he adds.
Ilya Talman of Roy Talman & Associates, Inc., a locally based recruitment firm, says there is "unending demand for quant traders" in Chicago. While a person who has a strong general quant background can be successful, Talman sees prop shops in the market specifically for "someone who has come up with a strategy, programmed it, run it and fine tuned it."
Need in Options and Derivatives
"Demand is high, especially in options and derivatives areas," adds Ryan Pollock, Krumm's partner at Objective Paradigm.
Geiger agrees. The need for quantitative analysis has evolved from changes in the equity business over the last ten years, he notes, especially in Chicago, where financial markets have traditionally been even more quant-driven than other regions because of the emphasis given to these areas by local educational institutions.
Geiger also notes a growing trend to incorporate the use of algorithmic modeling in various types of trading as firms work to take advantage of inequities in the market. Most firms, including long-only shops, "Don't execute stock trades anymore without running them through some sort of analytics," he says.
From Mid- to Senior-Level
According to recruiters and insiders, demand exists at all levels, from C-level and managing directors to experienced programmers. "Different trading firms have different needs: Some are looking for department heads and other need individual contributors," Ryan notes.
An ideal candidate at any level must possess a strong educational background. A Ph.D. in a mathematical or scientific field is a must, say recruiters. Degrees in mathematics, statistics and physics are attractive, as is advanced study in financial engineering, a more recently offered degree.
Experience is also key, with three years in industry a baseline minimum. With some firms laying off seasoned quants, employers are likely to be more selective in evaluating candidates.
"Still," says Talman, "talent is the driver behind hiring." He and other recruiters say it's tough to find candidates who have the perfect combination of quantitative skills, experience and the ability to communicate.
Ideal candidates possess strength in math and analytics, but also understand the trading community, Krumm says. Individuals "who can talk to the tech people and understand the limits of technology" have a strong point of differentiation. That, he notes, can drive compensation.
Adds Geiger: "Those who also possess good communication skills can write their own tickets."