Forget spending 300 hours on each CFA qualification, or £50k ($64k) on an MBA. If you want to be supremely employable in banks or hedge funds or trading houses right now, you want to be an expert in Kdb databases and their associated programming language, Q.
One company, Ireland-based First Derivatives, will train you up.
First Derivatives is a part owner of KX, the company which owns and sells Kdb. KX was founded by the ex-Morgan Stanley technologist, Arthur Whitney who conceived of Kdb and Q after quitting banking in 1993.
Elizabeth O’Hanlon, global talent acquisition manager, at First Derivatives, says the company recruits and trains over 400 graduates a year in Europe, Asia and the U.S. Most are schooled in Kdb technology with particular streams for data science, programming, financial engineering and trading technologies. Finance-focused and marketing roles are available too.
“For our data science and trading technology roles we hope to attract graduates with backgrounds in engineering, maths, physics, computer science and finance – who are analytical, good at problem solving and number-crunching,” O’Hanlon says..
Kdb’s appeal to banks and hedge funds is derived from its ability to store large amounts of real time data and then to process it at high speed. This makes it the database of choice for algorithmic trading systems. As banks’ use of algorithmic trading and need for data scientists has risen, so has their demand for people who can work in Kdb and Q.
First Derivatives puts its graduates through a two-year paid training programme. O’Hanlon declined to say how much it pays, saying simply that there’s a “significant bump” at the end of the 24 months and that pay varies according to the number of training modules completed.
When the programme's over, trainees are set to work with banks and other clients on a consultancy basis. “You might spend six months with Morgan Stanley, six months with Goldman Sachs and six months with RBS,” says O’Hanlon. “We try to rotate you around interesting projects. A lot of our clients are tier one banks and hedge funds, although we’re now working in other areas like pharmaceuticals too.” Ultimately, trainees are free to work for banks directly - J.P. Morgan, Bank of America and Morgan Stanley were all looking for in-house Kdb expertise last time we looked.
While banks impose fixed deadlines for applications to their graduate programmes, First Derivatives hires on a continuous basis. “We hire globally all year round,” says O’Hanlon. “There’s no fixed month or date to get your application in.”
Even so, getting hired isn’t easy. O’Hanlon says they’re “inundated” with applications. Ideal recruits for the technology and trading streams don’t need a PhD or a masters qualification, although O’Hanlon says they’re often “Masters quality”. If you want to join this streams, you will need a relevant technology or mathematically-oriented degree, and – if you're in the UK – candidates are usually expected to have two As and a B at A level.
If you fit the criteria, O’Hanlon says you can expect an initial screening that’s simply a chat-through your CV or resume. If you jump this hurdle, you’ll have a face to face interview in an office or on Skype. And if that also goes well, you’ll be put through a technical Kdb/Q test. “We want to see how quickly you can pick it up,” O’Hanlon says. No prior knowledge is required.