Last year I completed an undergraduate degree in quantitative finance from a European university and returned home to Singapore in search of work.
Given the shortage of people with my skill set in Singapore, I wasn’t surprised to find that three large international banks all gave me job offers. However, having gone through the interview process and having done my own research into the firms, I turned them all down.
I’ve been told countless times that investment banks provide an ideal platform for a career in just about anything else in finance and business. But I decided that working for such large organisations, with so many management layers, wasn’t for me.
In short, I would be stifled and bored in banking as a junior and would only be taking a job in the hope of moving on within a few years. Moreover, the positions on offer to juniors with my skills are typically trading-focused risk management jobs...I wanted something more exciting.
Fortunately, a hedge fund (a quant fund with a long/short neutral strategy) came along at around the same time with a better offer. When interviewing with this firm, it soon became clear that I much preferred its smaller, less bureaucratic environment.
More importantly, at the hedge fund I see direct results of my work within months. As a quant researcher, I’m tasked with researching different trading strategies and submittig my investment ideas to our portfolio managers. If a PM likes one of my ideas, I back test it with historical data, and it then goes to market.
My personal performance is therefore very transparent. I can see – everyone in the firm can see – whether one of my strategies is working out. Even as a recent graduate, I’m directly judged by my ideas. It’s a sink-or-swim environment here.
I haven’t had the cushy settling-in year that you get at large banks – rotations, training, networking events etc etc. Despite recent job cuts at a senior level in Singapore, banks still offer juniors more career stability than hedge funds do. But to me, that’s not enough.
I wouldn’t want to be a small cog in a big wheel, playing an insignificant (and unrecognised) part on a large trade. There are more potential downsides in my role, but so far I’ve been successful and I’ve been recognised for it – I’ve got credit from senior management.
On top of all that, I’m doing an innovative, independent job and the firm trusts me to do my own research without much interference. I can literally come up with any idea, as long as I can make an intelligent case for it. Try doing that when you start out at a bank.
Beatrice Goh (a pseudonym) works for a hedge fund in Singapore.
Image credit: stephanie phillips, Getty