Hot quant career tips from Frank Mao, ex-head of quant risk at HSBC
Until a month ago, Frank Mao was head of the quantitative risk and modeling group at HSBC. Now, Frank is a contract quant providing his services to other banks for a fee. With 17 years of quanting in the City of London behind him, Frank is well placed to advise quants how to succeed.
This is the advice he dispensed at a seminar this week run by Silu, an eFinancialCareers partner site for Chinese expats.
1. Academic qualifications are necessary, but not sufficient for quant roles
You have a 1st class or 2.1 degree, maybe you also have a quantitative masters. Don’t, however, suppose that this will be enough to get you a job as a quant. For that, you will also need to show interest said Frank. Interest is demonstrated through work experience and internships.
2. You will not be a quant if you can’t code
Frank said he interviewed a Cambridge mathematician who aspired to become a quant. However, the quant aspirant knew no C++. When Frank asked him why this was, the candidate said he’d learn to code when he got the job. He didn’t get the job. “If you want to be a quant, you will need to learn to code in advance,” Frank advised.
3. You will not be a quant if you’re not creative
Quanting isn’t just about solving complex calculations. “It’s not just a factory production line,” said Frank. No. If you want to be a good quant you will need to reconcile conflicting demands from clients, risk managers, salespeople and traders. “This takes creativity,” Frank said.
4. Honesty is paramount
Honesty is important in the banking industry, said Frank – especially of late.
5. Opportunism is your friend
“If you are really capable, there will always be opportunities for you,” said Frank. When these opportunities present themselves, you must take advantage of them however. Luck helps too.
6. Chinese quants must be particularly affirmative
As a quant, you need to be “affirmative and confident,” said Frank. This is particularly the case if you’re Chinese and are culturally inclined towards modesty. “Don’t be too easily swayed,” Frank advised, adding that it helps to substantiate your assertiveness with facts.