How my state-educated son from a non-finance family beat 350 people to a hedge fund job

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My son was offered a graduate job in a small global macro hedge fund in Mayfair in London. How do I feel about this? I’m delighted! The offer followed a successful summer internship as a quantitative analyst for which he was one of 350 applicants.

So, why was he returning to the final year of his BSc in maths with this amazing offer and the other 349 applicants not? Good question. Is he super aggressive and hyper competitive? Certainly not. In fact in my opinion he is a lovely young man. A very determined and driven lovely young man, but I may be biased.

Let me take you back to the start. He was born in the north of England into a family without links to the financial sector and was educated in the state school system. From a very early age he loved learning. He could read and was familiar with numbers well before his fourth birthday and when he learnt that they could be added, subtracted, multiplied and divided he was overwhelmed with joy. I was always amazed by his approach to problem solving. He would apply potential solutions and adapt these to get the desired outcome, a kind of junior algorithmic approach.

He had his multiplication tables nailed soon after starting school and enjoyed learning about new things in various classes. So was he the weird loner boffin kid sitting on his own at playtime reciting his 12 times table? Not at all. He loved making friends and was and is a loving and caring son and sibling to his younger sister, who is currently making waves in the fashion world (but that’s another story).

It is common knowledge that getting over the first hurdle in applications to competitive financial roles requires a string of top grades and ideally attendance at a top university. As he progressed through school my son was unclear on what he wanted to do as a career, but was committed to academic success. He knew this would give him the best chance, whatever he chose to pursue. He and his friends were competitive in a friendly way but his main competition was himself. He knew he couldn’t be top of the class in everything but strove to continuously perform better than before while allowing time to pursue other interests and relax. This helped him to achieve the grades he wanted while learning to prioritise and manage his time effectively. He achieved the exact grades required for his first choice of university course, the exact mark needed to gain a distinction in grade 8 piano, and he didn’t get a single point higher than necessary to pass his driving theory test. If that’s not efficient application of effort I don’t know what is.

During his mid teen years my son discovered one of his greatest passions in life… poker. He read numerous books on strategy before applying these himself to beat all his friends. He was definitely obsessed with the game and playing it helped. Poker meant he developed skills like decision making, problem solving, communication and taking calculated risks while being risk averse. It’s no secret that some successful poker players are also big hitters in the financial sector. It helped too that while preparing for the interview my son discovered the Chief Investment Officer of this fund he's received an offer from was also a successful poker player. This lead to an interesting discussion during the interview which certainly didn’t harm his chances.

So no, you don't need to be a well-connected member of the elite to get a job at a top fund. Nor do you need a long list of banking internships. A relative lack of work experience, except a couple of Insight Days with bulge bracket banks, didn’t hold my son back.

The selection process involved sending a CV and cover letter, then a telephone interview with on the spot maths tests. Successful candidates attended 1:1 interviews with various staff and programming/statistics tests. He felt he clicked with everyone he met, which is important in a small team, and was delighted to be offered the position.

To conclude, is this a ‘how to’ guide for aspiring future parents of hedge fund professionals? Not really. All I ever wanted was for my children to pursue careers they enjoy, and that pay enough to allow them to live well, so if my son is happy with his career choice, then so am I.

Graham Brown is the pseudonym of a proud father 

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