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Ask a Quant Headhunter

After placing traders in investment firms for 25 years, Lou Ricci has seen booms and busts. As partner and co-founder of The Hagan-Ricci Group, a trading headhunting firm with offices in Armonk, NY, Ricci shares his insight on today's job market, the skills traders need these days and if quants are drooling over Google and not Goldman Sachs.

Advanced Trading: In the 80s and 90s traders looking for work at an investment firm needed an MBA and a blue suit. Last decade firms were looking for grads with programming skills who knew the ins and outs of Microsoft Excel. Now with the rise of quantitative trading, are hedge funds looking for candidates with super math skills?

Lou Ricci: Yes, definitely. They want to do more with less, people wise.

What's it like inside today's cutthroat Hedge Funds? Check out The New Trader: Adapt or Die

Advanced Trading: What are the skill-sets that today's Buy Side Trader needs?

Ricci: Trading ideas are important but for different roles. You need an idea guy but also a person who can build models and put things into models that can be automated and they need programmers to program the algorithms. Sometimes one person can do it all. But not everybody can do it all and sometimes they need programming support.

Sometimes it's more quantitative – the more they can do, the better.

Advanced Trading: Are hedge funds having a tough time finding the right staffers?

Ricci: It's definitely competitive - they are fighting with each other. No question.

Advanced Trading: Are the graduates with quantitative math degrees leaving school and the top quant schools out there?

Ricci: The top schools. The Ivy League schools. Rutgers isn't bad for a state school. The MIT and Stanfords and Harvards will jump out with anyone hiring in the industry.

Advanced Trading: How long does it take for a position to be filled?

Ricci: Good question. It varies on a per firm basis. Some hire right away and others take a long time. Often times when a candidate has an offer they need some time off to satisfy their firm's non-compete clause.

Advanced Trading: How is the job market right now?

Ricci: This field is so specific that this climate is good and if the banks were able to open up the regulations it would be a better environment for the employees. Now that prop trading firms and hedge funds are calling the shots, they are the only ones who are hiring on this space in a major way. So, from an employer stand point, there's not enough people.

And there are a lot of non-competes now with the prop trading firms, but the banks have "gardening leave" where they have people rest out for a couple of months between jobs but the prop trading firms they lock people up for a year, sometimes two to sit out for some time.

Advanced Trading: What are the hot regions for quants?

Ricci: It's still New York and Chicago and Boston is third. Some of the firms have offices in places like South Carolina but when you look at places like that it's a relocation situation. But if it's New York or Chicago, you look for a job across the street or in the next floor in your building to find your next opportunity. In a remote locale, you have to move your family.

Phil Albinus is the former editor-in-chief of Advanced Trading. He has nearly two decades of journalism experience and has been covering financial technology and regulation for nine years. Before joining Advanced Trading, he served as editor of Waters, a monthly trade journal ... View Full Bio

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