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How to get a job at a top quant hedge fund when you don't have a PhD

Matthew Killeya is a mathematician. He has a first class degree in mathematics from the UK's Durham University and a PhD in Bayesian statistics from the same institution. He's also co-chief investment officer at GAM Systematic Cantab - a London hedge fund with $4.6bn under management. Many of the 65 people who work with Killeya in Cantab's Cambridge office are PhD mathematicians too, but if you're not one yourself, he might still hire you.

Speaking to students at this week's Alternative Investments Conference, run the London School of Economics, Killeya helped assuage the concerns of anyone who wants to work for a quant fund, but doesn't have the requisite level of postgraduate education.

"If you're a gifted programmer, it's not a hard requirement to have a PhD," Killeya told students who wondered whether he might hire them. If you want to work for a quant fund it's important to have an interest in statistics, data and financial markets, said Killeya. Beyond that, anything goes.

So, how do you become a gifted programmer if you're not studying, say, computer science? Killeya encouraged the students to teach themselves: "Take a problem that you find interesting and mess around in Python on a computer trying to solve it."

He also had some advice on how to learn statistics for students who didn't set out to be quants and who aren't statisticians. "If you’re going to learn anything about statistics, learn Bayesian statistics first," said Killeya, adding that all other statistical methods are merely derivative.

Killeya also reflected on the importance of natural language processing to hedge funds. At Cantab, he said they're training a neural network to look at the structure of language and determine whether articles are positive or negative. The alternative would be using a technique known as 'bag of words' to conduct textual analysis of the news. However, by simply counting negative and positive words, this would fail to engage with the semantic structure of the language, said Killeya, and as such would lose an important element of understanding.

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor

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