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Cry of semi-despair: “I am stuck in a director-level position and can’t get promoted”

Life as a quant developer

Life as a quant developer

I’m writing this because my career seems to have stalled and I need advice.

I work in a quant development team at a major bank (building the computer programmes that bring quantitative models to life). My understanding is that demand for quants in banks and hedge funds has picked up again – people are talking about a ‘hiring frenzy.’ Personally, I want to use this frenzy to further my career. I’ve been in quant development for five years and am currently a director: I want to make MD.

How realistic is this?

Despite my years of experience, I have:

  • Never been promoted.
  • Never received any kind of annual salary or bonus increase unless I’ve swapped jobs.

All my career growth has come from changing firms and changing jobs. Does this make me a failure? I don’t think so – no one I’ve worked with in a quant or IT role has ever applied for and received an internal job transfer. Quant technology roles seem to be a dead end.

So, what should I do? Should I wait around to get promoted and help to fill a departing colleague’s shoes? Should I asked for a base salary increase? – Will that single me out at as overly-demanding?

And finally, is it worth me applying to rival firms in the hope that I can get promoted to MD by switching roles (again)? Does this really happen? I don’t want to move to a rival firm as a director and would probably turn down another director-level role elsewhere.

Any advice would be much appreciated. Please use the comments box below.

*Andrew Deft is a pseudonym 

Comments (3)

  1. One thing you could do is look for contracting work. I don’t know what you currently make, I’m sure it’s a very good salary. But you could go into contracting for a while, build up some management skills and earn a bit more money (and pay much less tax). Then after a few years you could go back into a full time role at a higher level, perhaps MD.

    What they like to see in MD’s is not only good skills for the job, which I’m sure you have, but also someone who is dynamic and has a little project management experience. That’s why we see a lot of ex management consultants in MD-type roles.

    That’s just my thoughts.

  2. Quant Dev is a broad title.

    Are you involved in the strategies / algos, or just a dev?

    If a developer – then could try and maybe push towards that side a little more

    If already in such a role – what’s the desk
    Are you involved in alpha generating strategies
    Or in risk management / modelling

    If the latter I’d say that is not idea and more difficult.
    Do think to better answer would need to know the above

  3. The promotion to MD is very political. You move from a role where you have to produce/deliver, to a role where you manage: making sure people below you are working in the direction set by the clients (business, trading, etc..). Usually there is only on MD per team (sometimes co-heads but this is unstable) so to go up, you either need to evict your boss or he is also moving up (if he is good that could be happen but most of the time they have also hit the ceiling themselves). Your boss will never promote you to the same level then themselves (obviously they want to stay your boss). So you need a sponsor on MD or above, who behind closed doors will defend your case and show the rest of the world how things would be better off if you were to step up to MD. This is way every promotion are harder to obtain and the reality is that a lot of people just stay where they are for a very long time … The rule is: you’ll be promoted till you reach your level of incompetency…
    Change job only if someone above you will always undermine you when your name is on the promotion list. If you change job, you have to start from zero again, prove your worth to the rainmakers above you…

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