In the days before the Great Recession, quant professionals had their choice of jobs. The situation is dramatically different today.
Hedge funds and boutique proprietary trading firms are hiring but at a pace that is far from robust, according to recruiters we talked to. Nonetheless, candidates are starting to dust off their resumes in the hopes of finding new opportunities. They just need to realize that times have changed.
An Increase in Job Postings
The Society of Quantitative Analysts has seen an increase in the number of job postings on its Web site, though “it’s nothing like it was in 2008,” according to Dave Carelton, the society’s administrator. He adds that his organization’s site doesn’t tell the whole story since many jobs are also posted on other sites.
Banks are hiring more quants because the Volker Rule will ban them from taking excessive risks with customers’ money. These jobs, however, may not be sustainable if Wall Street’s efforts to kill the rule are successful.
Employers More Selective
“This increase in candidates on the market has allowed employers to be more selective,” said Matt Moye of M. Moye Consulting, a recruiting firm specializing in quantitative jobs. “In previous years, we'd see more opportunistic hires where an experienced candidate may tick half the boxes required for the position but be very bright and have upside. Now employers are looking for the entire package.”
Recruiters such as Peter Arian of Analytic Recruiting echoed Moye’s sentiments.
‘Hiring managers are reluctant to pull the trigger,” he told eFinancialCareers, adding that successful candidates are “smart enough to understand that the environment has changed and will adjust their expectations accordingly.”
Strong Traders are Being Snapped Up
Of course, there are exceptions. Traders with strong track records in the high-frequency or proprietary spaces going back at least 12 months are being snapped up by hedge funds and other employers, according to Steven Talbot, director a GQR Global Markets in New York.
“It’s more of a case of which opportunity do they want to take,” said Talbot.
Top candidates are still able to command good salaries. According to Moye, companies do not appear to be trying to replace high-priced talent with cheaper, inexperienced staff. “I do not believe this is the case and I've seen more failures in firms that aim for quantity over quality,” he said. “My clients have continued to have an extremely high bar to hit.”
More Opportunities Outside New York
Quant firms are becoming increasingly decentralized, so there are opportunities outside of New York. Many are setting up shop in California to tap into the talent pool there. “People on the whole are less willing to relocate,” Talbot said, adding that firms are also less willing to pay for moving expenses than they had been previously.
Recruiters also advise candidates to keep their salary expectations realistic because the grass is not always as green in other places as some might imagine. That’s especially true for people at the beginning stages of their career.
“We're still seeing strong offers for candidates that directly affect the bottom line,” Moye said. “However, the days of always receiving a first-year guarantee don’t apply anymore.”