Financial Services and Quantitative Research: Where to start, how to stand out, and what to look forward to

At our most recent PhD Pathway: Career Conversations event, 50 PhD students representing 18 various fields of study gathered to network and discuss leveraging their degrees in Financial Services and Quantitative Research. Five panelists representing prominent companies in the field joined to share their experiences:

  • Cubist Systematic Strategies
  • Jane Street
  • PDT Partners
  • Susquehanna International Group (SIG)
  • Wayfair

The panelists offered insight into the differences between industry and academia, what they look for in candidates, and what they love about their current roles.

There’s no Substitute for hands-on experience (and coding skills)

While acknowledging the time commitment of a PhD program, panelists advised students to start thinking about their professional development. Some panelists encouraged students to learn about opportunities for PhDs in the industry, like Jane Street’s three-day Symposium or Wayfair’s week-long immersion programs, which help PhDs learn and gain experience in the quant/finance environment. Additionally, panelists encouraged students to pick up some programming skills, even if they are not a part of their current learning as a PhD.

convey you want to be there — Showcase your problem-Solving and communication skills

Tenacity and excitement came up several times as fundamental characteristics that employers are looking for in their PhD candidates. Panelists recognized that a key strength of PhD students is their ability to analyze ambiguous problems, think innovatively, and break them into smaller parts. They urged students to practice explaining their research to people who do not have an expertise or are from another field, as communicating complex ideas comes up often in all of their roles.

there is a minimum bar for technical and programming skills, but that you don’t need to be an expert

“Self-sufficiency, being able to work on small teams and take on responsibility are key. We also look for candidates for are comfortable diving into data sets, and we look for skills shown through candidate’s projects.” — Cubist 

“Specific skills are not as important as tenacity, it’s also important to showcase what you do outside of your PhD.” — Jane Street

“Brush up on some programming, python specifically. Meeting the minimum bar for math and programming skills removes our questions. We conduct research based interviews. We ask candidates to give a research seminar.” - PDT Partners

“We look for candidates with a passion for modeling the world and systems creatively, and willingness to innovate.” — SIG

“We aren’t a trading company like many others here, but we look for people who keep up to date on and get experience in different techniques and working with different technologies.” — Wayfair

What to look forward to

The panelists agreed that the most rewarding aspects of their roles include working on challenging real-world problems while collaborating with intelligent colleagues from various backgrounds. Many also included that they enjoyed being in a solution driven space, where ideas are quickly moved into action. Panelists also cited that they look forward to learning something new every single day.

Want to learn more? 

Learn more about the Financial Services on our Industry pages.