Over the past couple of years, Advanced Trading's Gold Book has highlighted head traders, first at traditional asset management firms and then at hedge funds. We've profiled the star players in the industry to help our readers better understand who they are and what makes them successful. But this year we decided to do something entirely different.
We decided to profile a category of people who are usually behind the scenes yet are critical to the inner workings of Wall Street. Without them, we would not have the advanced algorithmic trading, portfolio optimization, data analysis or risk management tools that shape the capital markets industry. The role, of course, is that of the quantitative analyst.
The demand for quants has been increasing on Wall Street as electronic trading has exploded and as risk management has become even more critical to the overall business. In fact most firms won't even reveal the names of their quants for fear that they will be poached by competitors. So what better way to serve our readers than to highlight up-and-coming quant stars? We've selected 18 individuals who are currently getting their master's in financial engineering at some of the top quant programs in the country. The purpose behind these profiles is to introduce Wall Street to the new class of quants, allowing you to meet the people behind the quantitative skills.
In order to get into these master's programs, students have to have extensive math and/or computer backgrounds, but it takes more than that to be successful on the Street. Understanding the business of financial services also is essential. The quant candidates we've interviewed have varying levels of experience -- some entered their graduate programs straight out of college, while others have professional experience. But almost all have had some sort of financial services internship.
Not only are these students accomplished in their areas of study but, as you might expect of overachievers, they are accomplished in other fields as well. One earned two undergraduate degrees and a master's before entering his financial engineering program, and several have Ph.D.s. One was a professional poker player; another, an aspiring ballet dancer; and another is probably the youngest financial engineering student, at 19.
The students highlighted in this year's Gold Book come from all over the world. But while they speak many languages -- in addition to the languages of math and computer programming -- the most important language they need to know may be that of the business in which they hope to succeed. As one student noted, "Often the quant and trader do not speak the same language."
Above all, these students have a passion for the Street. Whether it's the "sexy trading floor," as one put it, the global nature of the business or the fact that they get to use their beloved math to solve real-world problems, they are all excited and eager to put their skills to work and make a difference.