If you're thinking of getting a job in high frequency trading (HFT), Evgeny Gaevoy is pretty handy career mentor. After spending over 10 years at Optiver in Amsterdam where he was a senior derivatives trader and head of ETF business expansion, Gaevoy has started an HFT business of his own. - Wintermute Trading is a new high frequency trading firm focused on digital assets.
Gaevoy is hiring at Wintermute, but he also has plenty of insights about working in the HFT space as a whole. High frequency trading funds like Optiver, IMC and Flow Traders are some of the finance industry's most sought-after employers. If you're thinking of a high frequency trading career, we've listed Gaevoy's advice in a Q&A format below.
What are the main jobs people do in high frequency trading firms?
"There are two core roles in HFT firms," says Gaevoy: traders and developers. "Developers work on the tech stack and infrastructure and are increasingly important," he says. "Traders in HFT improve trading algorithms [for example by changing the parameters] to increase trading P&L."
What does it take to become a trader in a high frequency trading firm?
'The trader has to be quantitatively smart, but the role does not involve building complex mathematical models," says Gaevoy. Instead (as mentioned above), it's usually about tweaking existing algorithms rather than writing new ones from scratch.
What's the difference between an HFT trader and a quant trader?
Quant traders are basically far more focused on modelling. Gaevoy says there's a conceptual difference between quant funds and HFT funds. "HFT firms win by being the fastest, while using good models. Quant hedge funds win by having the best models while being somewhat fast."
Do traders need to code at HFT firms?
At Wintermute, Gaevoy expects all his traders to know how to code in Python. "If 5-10 years ago a quant degree was enough, now more and more traders are required to have coding skills. Not every HFT firm requires traders to know coding yet, but it this is where the industry is going," he says. "At graduate level, traders are not expected to be pros at coding, but willing to understand and write simpler code is crucial."
What's the best route into a job as a high frequency trader?
If you want to be trader in a high frequency firm, Gaevoy says you're best off trying to get into the industry out of university. Most of the big funds run graduate training programs and have a presence on the campuses of top universities. "There are sometimes external [experienced] trading hires, but these are usually pretty specialized," he says.
What's the best route into a developer job in a high frequency trading firm?
High frequency trading firms are fundamentally technology businesses. It's unsurprising, then, that the HFT industry is a big recruiter of developers. However, finding developers can be a struggle - high speed trading firms want the best and they're competing against the likes of Google and Amazon. For this reason, you can usually apply for an HFT development job when you already have some experience.
Why should you want to work as a developer in an HFT instead of a bank?
"Banks are still very old school in terms of technology adoption and electronic trading, they have the burden of legacy technology that is 10-20-30 years old," says Evgeny. "Bank’s electronic trading desks often focus on execution, they generally cannot compete with HFT in terms of speed and tech advancement," he adds.
It helps too that HFTs are more like tech firms in their general atmosphere. They typically have a flatter structure, informal culture, funky offices, trading games, and let people wear jeans and T-shirts to work, says Gaevoy.
Can you do an internship in an high frequency trading firm?
Unlikely. "Internships are not common," says Gaevoy. "This is due to the long time it takes to train people and confidentiality of tech stack and algorithms."
Who is Gaevoy hiring at Wintermute?
Evgeny says Wintermute actively hires recent graduates with computer science and other quantitative degrees. "We are growing very fast, so we always have open position for great graduate software engineers and what we call “traders-developers” – traders who can code," he says. "We are looking for people who have a genuine interest in the space, have played with trading and ideally did algo building on their own. At Wintermute we have a hybrid developer-trader role who write new algorithms and trade using them”.
"Lack of preparation and purely financial motivation are red flags," he adds.
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