Steps Needed to Become a Quant Trader

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Shobhit Seth

23 May, 2018

in Trading Careers

Lucrative salaries, hefty bonuses and creativity on the job have resulted in quantitative trading becoming an attractive career option. Quantitative traders, or quants for short, use mathematical models to identify trading opportunities to buy and sell securities. The influx of candidates from academia, software development and engineering have made the field quite competitive. In this article, we’ll look at what quants do and the skills and education needed.

What Do Quantitative Traders Really Do?
The word "quant" is derived from quantitative, which essentially means working with numbers. The advancement of computer-aided algorithmic trading and high-frequency trading means there is a huge amount of data to be analyzed. Quants mine and research the available price and quotes data, identify profitable trading opportunities, develop relevant trading strategies and capitalize on opportunities with lightning-fast speed using self-developed computer programs. In essence, a quant trader needs a balanced mix of in-depth mathematics knowledge, practical trading exposure and computer skills. Quant traders can work for investment firms and banks, or they can be proprietary traders, using their own money for investment.

Technical Skills
An aspiring quant should have, at minimum, a background in finance, mathematics and computer programming. In addition, quants should have the following skills and background:

  • Numbers, Numbers and Numbers
    Quant traders must be exceptionally good with mathematics and quantitative analysis. For example, if terms like conditional probability, skewness, kurtosis and VaR don’t sound familiar, then you’re probably not ready to be a quant. In-depth knowledge of math is a must for researching data, testing the results, and implementing identified trade strategies. Identified trade strategies, implemented algorithms and trade execution methods should be as fool-proof as possible. In the present day lightning-fast trading world, complex number-crunching trading algorithms occupy a majority of the market share. Even a small mistake in the underlying concept on the part of the quant trader can result in a huge trading loss.
  • Education and Training
    It is usually difficult for new college graduates to score a job as a quant trader. A more typical career path is starting out as a data research analyst and becoming a quant after a few years. Education like a masters in financial engineering, a diploma in quantitative financial modelling or electives in quantitative streams during the regular MBA may give candidates a head start. These courses cover the theoretical concepts and practical introduction to tools required for quant trading.
  • Trading Concepts
    Quants are expected to discover and design their own unique trading strategies and models from scratch as well as customize established models. A quant trading candidate should have a detailed knowledge of popular trading strategies as well as each one's respective advantages and disadvantages.
  • Programming Skills
    Quant traders must be familiar with data mining, research, analysis and automated trading systems. They are often involved in high-frequency trading or algorithmic trading. A good understanding of at least one programming language is a must and the more programs the candidate knows, the better. C++, Java, Python and Perl are a few commonly used programming languages. Familiarity with tools like MATLAB and spreadsheets, and concepts like big data and data structuring, is a plus.
  • Computer Usage
    Quants implement their own algorithms on real-time data containing price and quotes. They need to be familiar with any associated systems, like a Bloomberg terminal, which provides data feeds and content. They should also be comfortable with charting and analysis software applications and spreadsheets and be able to use broker trading platforms to place orders.

Soft Skills
Beyond the above-mentioned technical skills, quant traders also need soft skills. Those employed at investment banks or hedge funds may occasionally need to present their developed concepts to fund managers and higher ups for approval. Quants do not typically interact with clients and they often work with a specialized team, so average communication skills may suffice. In addition, a quant trader should have the following soft skills:

  • A Trader's Temperament
    Not everyone can think and act like a trader. Successful traders are always looking for innovative trading ideas, are able to adapt to changing market conditions, thrive under stress and accept long working hours. Employers thoroughly assess candidates for these traits. Some even give psychometric tests.
  • Risk-Taking Abilities
    The present day trading world is not for the faint-hearted. Courtesy of margin and leveraged trading with dependency on computers, losses can reach to amounts higher than a trader's available capital. Aspiring quants must understand risk management and risk mitigation techniques. A successful quant may make 10 trades, face losses on the first eight, and profit only with the last two trades.

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Thanks for a morning article to start the day.

Thing I learned from this, is that Quants seem to be no better than conventional traders.

Despite having multiple degrees in maths and engineering and programming:
* they still need a "traders temperament"; maths is not enough, they still need to find patterns that are profitable.
* they are taking similar risks to conventional traders. "they can make 10 trades, lose on first eight, and make profit on last 2". I read that in Murphy, Alan Farley, et al. Thats a meme going back to Livermore.
* "comfortable with failure": markets are dynamic, good ideas become unprofitable. All their maths knowledge doesnt protect them from a changing market.

Broadly, it seems the issues normal traders face, the quants face as well. Their maths doesnt save them. its almost like algos are the new "indicators". (Not knocking indicators. I use them all the time.)

Might have been more interesting to know how often quants trade per day, their preferred time-frames, the size of the market move they aim to gain, etc.
How may quants go bust as opposed those that keep going to profitability, etc.

Article was too broad, and superficial.

Gave it a 5.

Jul 06, 2018

Member (5969 posts)

Re: Steps Needed to Become a Quant Trader

Life of quant trader is actually very interesting! Their concepts, strategies, and skills are the best to trade.

Jul 06, 2018

Member (25 posts)

Wanna be Quant? Probably not anymore after reading this

Member (12 posts)

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