If you want a data job in a hedge fund, you don't just need to be highly competent at coding in Python or R. Speaking off the record, two heads of data science at hedge funds, said the most important qualities required of data scientists in finance today are curiosity and the ability to communicate closely with other members of the team.
Data sources have proliferated wildly in recent years with most funds now bringing in large amounts of alternative ('alt') data like social media or footfall information, which come as unstructured text or images.
As data sources have proliferated, data jobs in finance have evolved into three streams. Firstly, they're about data sourcing. Secondly, they're about the data infrastructure that allows funds to ingest, clean and structure the data. And thirdly, they're about using the data to generate alpha. Data scientists need to be highly adaptive and able to work teams covering all streams.
The most important qualities for a data professional in a hedge fund today are therefore curiosity, a willingness to try new things, and an ability to work very closely with colleagues who might be compliance professionals, data scientists (the people integrating data into machine learning models that might be used to identify pricing anomalies), data engineers (the people cleaning and preparing the data), or traders.
"It's not just a technical solution for engineers," said one hedge data head, talking of his firm's data strategy. It's about having a strategy for rapidly ingesting and structuring relevant data, for mapping it to securities you want to trade, storing it and then accessing it. - Relevant data needs to be accessible for everyone in the fund to use and mapping data to unearth insights from related data sets requires a web of functionality, which most funds are only just getting to grips with.
This is also why communication is so important. To succeed in a data role in a hedge fund today, you'll need to be part of a platform where individuals work very closely.
It's not enough to be an insular quant anymore.
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