I meet quite a few students every year at seminars and interviews in my role as admissions tutor for programmes in the College of Business at City University, and I’ve noticed a common line of thought among them: “If you are good at mathematics, you should choose a degree in the science and engineering disciplines.”
It’s the kind of advice many students get because even though many university programmes and career options have changed in recent years, secondary school subjects haven’t changed much.
Because of this, many secondary school students will feel uncertain about picking any of the unique programmes offered by City University. But here’s an alternative career option that students who are good at maths can choose.
Investment bank traders no longer run around the trading floor placing orders – that’s a thing of the past. Orders are now placed automatically by computer programs based on certain trading signals.
The computer programs are sets of instructions designed by quantitative analysts – also known as quants – and IT developers, based on their understanding of the financial markets, mathematical models and clients’ requests.
Quants identify and place profitable trades before other traders (or computer programs).
The trader who executes the order first will get the best price because buying drives prices up.
Quants with high-tech skills are in demand because they can plan and enable trades faster than the competition. Some quants focus on trading strategies; others on managing risks in banks and insurance companies by conducting research and validating models.
Quantitative analysts have to be very good at mathematics. They have to be able to solve complex problems using mathematical models and computational thinking. Financial and market knowledge is also important. Some key concepts they are expected to master include calculus, linear algebra, differential equations, probability and statistics, the Monte Carlo method, derivatives, portfolio management, C++, Java, VBA, SAS, and computer networking.
Quantitative finance/computational finance programmes are designed to develop a person’s mathematics, computer and finance knowledge. These programmes prepare students for an exciting career as quantitative analysts.
Are you interested in finding out more about becoming a quantitative analyst? My Life as a Quant: Reflections on Physics and Finance by Emanuel Derman is worth a read.