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Want a job in high frequency trading? Here are the pay and job prospects at 15 key firms

high frequency trading pay

Despite the recent scrutiny, the world of high frequency trading (HFT) remains something of an enigma. Even big firms fly under the radar and while rumours abound about traders being scooped up from investment banks and hedge funds – and large pay packets – little data is really available.

Through conversations with specialist recruiters, looking at the careers centres of major HFT firms and analysing the available financial data, we’re able to give you an idea of the jobs and pay on offer currently. Please note, this is not a ranking…

1. KCG

Who?: A relative giant in the HFT world, KCG employs around 1,000 people globally and was formed through the merger of Getco and Knight Capital in 2013. In the second quarter of 2016, KCG reported revenues of $319.9m, down from $345.4m in Q1, but an increase of 22% year on year.

Hiring?: Headcount has been heading down over the past few years, and this trend continues. It now has 950 people, down from 1,400 in 2013, and CEO Daniel Coleman said he didn’t expect it to go above this figure again. However, while headcount has been steadily deflating, KCG said in its annual report that 132 new employees joined in 2015. In London, however, headcount went from 152 people in 2014, to 146 last year (the latest available figures). It currently has 35 live jobs, largely in the U.S across Chicago, Jersey, New York and San Jose, but these are primarily in tech and quant development.

Pay?: On a pay per head basis, compensation has been heading down slowly at KCG. In 2013, its European arm paid an average of $492.9k, a figure that shrunk to $392.7k in 2014 and $391.3k last year (the latest available figures). Across the group, it paid an average of $380.4k last year.

2. Sun Trading

Who?: Tech-focused prop trading firm that includes HFT among its trading strategies. It has around 100 employees in the US across New York and Chicago and 24 people in London.

Hiring?: Not really. Just six roles globally, one for a quantitative trader in Chicago and a junior quant trader in New York. It’s also looking for two software development roles in Chicago and New York, a compliance role in Chicago and a back office software development role that could be based in London or Chicago.

Pay?: On a per head basis, it paid its staff in London $260k in 2015, which are the latest available figures, down from $380k in 2014.

4. Jump Trading

Who?: It has around 350 employees across its offices in Chicago (HQ), New York, London and Singapore. Likes to keep a low profile and rarely (if ever) ventures out into the public sphere, but was established 15 years ago and has been gradually becoming one of the biggest HFT players and top firms on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

Hiring?: Yes, it currently has around 60 jobs, for traders, quant researchers, technologists and operations across all its offices.

Pay?: This is only available for its European operation, where profits increased from $27.1m in 2014 to $39.3m last year. It has 49 employees in London (up from 32 in 2013) and paid them an average of $1.4m last year.

4. Tower Research Capital

Who?: Founded in 1998 by former Credit Suisse prop trader Mark Gorton, Tower Research Capital is a HFT firm comprised of engineers, physicists and computer science graduates and has around 300 employees worldwide, including within its European subsidiary Spire (Europe).

Hiring?: Yes. It has 42 open roles currently, although a large proportion (14) are based out of its Indian office in Gurgaon. However, there are a healthy number of quant trading, software development roles and graduate opportunities across London, Chicago and Singapore. It’s European arm increased headcount by 38% last year, although it still only has 82 employees.

Pay: The only available figures are for its European arm, where pay averaged out at $783.9k in 2015, up from $698.2k in 2014.

5. Tradebot Systems

Who? Based in Kansas City and predominantly focused on US and Canadian stock markets, Tradebot was thrust into the headlines for being the only HFT named in the Barclays’ ‘dark pool’ saga. It accounts for 5% of total trading volumes in the US stock market and trades 5,000 companies each month, according to its website.  There are only around 60 staff.

Hiring? Tradebot has a general opening for ‘equity traders’ on its site, which also requires a computer science, maths, statistics or finance degree and asks for familiarity with coding languages like Python, C++ or Java. It’s also hiring for developers.

Pay? It pays traders $50-100k as a base salary, depending on experience, but points out that the ‘big money’ is made through its annual bonus scheme. This is, of course, connected to personal performance.

6. Virtu Financial

Who? One of the few HFTs to go public (in April 2015), Virtu Financial has around 148 employees globally – as of December 2015 – and has offices in New York, Dublin, Singapore and Austin, Texas. Despite the IPO, it remains a relatively secretive organisation and admits it doesn’t “maintain a large public presence”. However, recently it entered an agreement to provide technology and market access to J.P. Morgan, which has helped thrust it into the mainstream.

Hiring?: Not hugely. It has a four roles in its Dublin office – largely support and technology – and five roles in New York (three software engineers, an account manager and an operations analyst). The majority of jobs (six) are in Austin, but again these are primarily for software engineers. There are also three roles in Singapore

Pay?: In the first six months of 2015, it accrued $43m in compensation costs, averaging out at $293k. Last year, it paid an average of $594.7k.

7. XR Trading

Who?: A Chicago-based HFT that has trading teams focused on seven asset classes including agricultural products, equities, FX and metals. Has offices in London, Chicago and Sydney.

Hiring?: Yes, relative to its size XR is expanding. Its latest results suggest that it had 8 employees in London last year – double that of 2014 – but it currently has five jobs in the City, primarily for experienced traders. It has the same number of roles in its Chicago office, both front and back office positions, and three openings in Sydney.

Pay?: The only available figures are for its London operation, which has just eight listed employees. It paid them an average of $383.9k last year, up from $290k in 2014.

8. DRW Trading

Who? Big player in the HFT with around 500 employees globally. It’s based in Chicago, but has offices in London, Montreal, New York, San Francisco and Singapore. Profits at its London arm surged from £4.5m in 2015 to £11.3m for the year to March 2016, according to accounts released this month.

Hiring?: Yes. It has 41 open roles globally – including 6 in trading, 21 in tech and 10 for new graduate recruits.

Pay?: New accounts for 2016 suggest that its 32 London employees received an average payout of $286.8k.

9. GSA Capital Partners

Who? Straddles the divide between quant hedge fund and HFT firm, GSA has a trendy office overlooking London’s Green Park. It manages money for clients, and increased profits by 25% in 2015 (the latest available accounts) to £144.2m ($176m)

Hiring?: Despite the increase in profits, two partners left GSA in 2015, according to the latest accounts. It has an open call for interested parties on its careers page, but no advertised vacancies. It’s not easy to get in – just 25 people have been hired out of 10,000 applicants since 2010. It’s headcount across the group fell slightly from 101 in 2014 to 99 last year.

Pay?: Its 22 partners earned an average of £2.8m ($3.4m) up from £2.4m 2014, but across the group its employees were paid an average of £127.2k ($197.7k)

10. Maven Securities

Who? A relatively new player, founded in 2011 by former Optiver and Tibra Capital traders that currently has just one office in London.

Hiring?: Relative to its size, very much so. It’s hiring for graduate traders and six more experienced trading jobs. It’s also hiring for software development and support positions.

Pay: It has 13 employees listed on its UK operation accounts, which were paid £1.9m, or £144k ($176.5k) average per head.

11. Two Sigma International

Who? A tech-driven HFT firm that claims to have been using Big Data in its trading strategies before it became fashionable. Founded in 2001 and currently headquartered in New York with offices in London, Houston and Hong Kong. It has over 1,000 employees globally Uber-trendy – it even has its own music recording studio for its employees and throws parties that it calls fiestas.

Hiring?: Very much so. It currently has 90 roles globally across portfolio management, trading, tech and support.

Pay?: Again, the only figures are for its London operation, where pay averaged out at £306k ($376k). Reports suggest that ‘math nerds’ in the U.S. start on $550k at Two Sigma, however.

12. Allston Trading

Who? Grandly proclaims to be “enriching lives” on its website, Allston was founded in 2002 by a trio of CME futures traders. It has ceased trading on US stock markets to focus purely on more profitable derivatives markets. Has around 125 employees.

Hiring?: Not really. Has a three open trading roles and two software development positions.

Pay?: No data

13. IMC

Who?: Headquartered in the Netherlands and surely one of the oldest HFTs, having been founded in 1989. It has 580 employees across Amsterdam, Chicago, Sydney, New York and Hong Kong and Zug.

Hiring?: To an extent. It has 8 trading jobs across its offices, and a further 17 technology roles across Amsterdam, Chicago and Sydney. There are also intern and graduate opportunities. IMC says in its latest annual report that 25 years ago it only employed traders. Now, they’re outnumbered by technologists.

Pay?: No official figures, but Glassdoor suggests that junior traders bring in $80k and options traders earn $95k. Trading interns earn $6.2k a month. Software engineers supposedly earn $107k. Perhaps it’s all in the bonus. IMC’s annual report said that it paid its employees €95.3m ($104.5m) in bonuses last year and that sixteen people earned variable compensation of more than €1m.

14. Hudson River Trading

Who? Another firm that claims to account for 5% of all stocks traded in the US. It has around 100 employees worldwide across offices in Austin, London, New York and Singapore, 25 of which are algorithmic traders. The rest work on writing software and other middle and back office roles.

Hiring?: Somewhat. It has around 18 jobs globally, plus graduate roles.

Pay?: Its London operation paid out an average of £473k ($580k) to its 11 employees last year.

15. Spot Trading

Who? Has around 100 employees across technology, equity research, quant and trading functions within its Chicago HQ. Claims to operate a meritocracy where all employees are rewarded for the performance of the firm, rather than compensated on individual performance.

Hiring?: It’s currently in the midst of a graduate recruitment programme, but has just one open experienced trading role, so not a huge amount of hiring.

Pay?: No data

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