Being a quant in an investment bank isn’t necessarily super exciting. While you might think you’ll be working on new machine learning strategies and automating whole workflows, you might just as likely be structuring derivative products for clients or modeling regulatory requirements. Maybe this is why Kaustav Mitra, a former associate-level quant/technologist at Goldman Sachs has quit for what looks like a far more interesting opportunity at a fintech accelerator that’s trying to change the face of finance.
After 19 months as a mere associate at Goldman, Mitra is off to become head of analytics at Octopus Labs. The labs are an ‘accelerator’ that promises to “back the best” of British fintech companies and self-build solutions based on gaps in the market. “The old financial players are dinosaurs,” proclaims its website. “They’re big, strong and great at acquiring customers – but terrible at serving them. Complicated products. Clunky processes. Confusing jargon.”
Mitra declined to comment for this article, but his new job seems pretty dynamic. If you’re a Millennial who wants to make a difference, shattering the existing financial order with exciting new technology is probably going to appeal.
Mitra’s previous role at Goldman Sachs sounds fairly pedestrian by comparison. At GS he was, ‘a product manager developing and implementing decision models of new financial regulations across US and Asia for Goldman’s OTC derivatives business.’
This is fairly typical. As Goldman’s partner and senior quant Ezra Nahum spelled out in a lecture last year, the role of quants in investment banks has changed: “While modeling exotic derivatives was the main activity for quants in the late 90s, capital optimization is the most important consideration today,” Nahum told students at Berkeley’s center for risk management.
In other words, if you work as a quant for a bank, you might well be tasked with risk modelling and cutting capital consumption. If you leave banking for a fintech company, you can build solutions that might revolutionize finance and change the world (sort of). It’s not surprising that Sally Boyle, Goldman’s head of human capital in Europe, told the Financial Times that competition for GS talent has changed. It’s no longer just about other banks, said Boyle: “We’re worrying about tech firms, small entrepreneurial firms”.