Desperado quants go for gambling and defence

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Times are still not good for junior quants and mathematical PhDs who aspire to work in investment banks. With banks pulling back from complexity, there's less need for their talents.

Mark Davis, a professor of maths at Imperial College, says lots of his students still want to work in finance, but they're also being forced to contemplate defence, pharmaceutical work, and the consultancy branches of accountancy firms.

One recruiter says quants who can't get into financial services are also to be found in "systematic gambling" at the likes of Betfair and Ladbrokes, where they analyze data in the same way hedge funds do.

Although banks' hiring freeze appears to be thawing in some other areas, the recruiter says junior quants are an exception to the rule. "It's very difficult to get into this space as a junior at the moment. They only want senior guys that won't be a draw on resources until they're up to speed."

John Docherty, head of defence appointments at recruitment firm CBS Butler, says defence companies are seeking to take advantage of this: "There are very few people who have studied maths academically and who have defence experience. My clients are forced to look at other sectors, and one of those is banking and finance."

Docherty makes defence sound exciting. He says defence quants build simulated environments for testing new weapons used by the SAS. However, there's a catch: "You can earn significantly more in the City," says Docherty; salaries in defence are rarely more than 40k.