May 17, 2012

Where Are the Best Quants Born?

With nearly three decades of experience on Wall Street, Emmanuel Derman, now director of Columbia's Master of Science in Financial Engineering program, has seen a lot in his career. But one thing he hasn't seen much of — both in his time at Columbia and during his 17 years at Goldman Sachs — is American-born quants.

Derman recalls that most of his colleagues during his time at Goldman Sachs were from other countries. And judging by the paltry number of U.S. applicants to Columbia's financial engineering program this year, Derman says, he doesn't see the trend changing in the near term.

Noting that the Columbia quant program received more than 1,000 applicants this year, he says, "The American-born, American-educated [applicants] are under 20 percent, sometimes much lower." He adds, "For better or for worse, it's always been predominantly foreign students."

On the other hand, Derman says, over the past year the number of Chinese applicants and students selected for admission to Columbia's financial engineering program has soared. "The quant world has always been a foreigner's world to an extent," Derman argues. "Americans by and large don't want to sit down and program and solve the financial equations."

[Quants Are In Demand, But Who's Hiring?]

As the Senior Editor of Advanced Trading, Justin Grant plays a key role in steering the magazine's coverage of the latest issues affecting the buy-side trading community. Since joining Advanced ...