In you want to know who the established superstar mathematicians in finance are, all you need to do is to flick through Scott Paterson’s 2011 book. ‘The Quants.’ Most of the big names are in there: Ed Thorp, Cliff Asness, Aaron Brown, Paul Wilmott, Benoit Mandlebrot… Those who don’t get a big mention (eg. Emmanuel Derman) are well known to the finance cognoscenti. But what about the next generation of mathematicians in finance? Who are they, and how can they be distinguished?
With the 55th International Mathematical Olympiad due to be held in Cape Town from Saturday July 7th, we’ve had a look at the global financial services professionals who’ve distinguished themselves in previous tournaments of mathematical prowess. Surprisingly, perhaps, we found few international Olympiad winners working in the finance sector. Most overall winners are academics or studying advanced maths at elite universities – like Xiaosheng Mu, winner of the 2008 Olympiad, who’s now a student at Yale.
However, finance firms globally do attract some ex-Olympians. Take, for example:
• Eliana Zoque. Eliana is an associate at Goldman Sachs in London. She has a PhD in maths from the University of Chicago and a BSc in maths from Universidad de Los Andes. She won gold medals in the IberoAmerican Mathematical Olympiad for University Students in 1993, 1996 and 1999 and a silver medal in the International Mathematical Olympiad in 1996.
• Valeriu Trufas. Valerie is a vice president-level exotics equity derivatives trader at Citigroup. She has a BSc in maths and computer science from the University of Bucharest, an MPhil in economics from Erasmus University Rotterdam and is a guest lecturer for the Advanced Portfolio Management course at Imperial College in London. In 1995, Valerie came first in the hotly contested Romanian heat of the mathematics Olympiad.
• Aleksandar Daskalov. Aleksandar is currently to be found working as a junior trader at Tibra Trading Europe. He has a first class degree in maths and finance from the University of Warwick, where he won an award for Outstanding Performance in Mathematics and Economics. In 2007, he won a silver medal at the International Mathematical Olympiad in Hanoi.
• Bogdan Panait. Bogdan is currently working as a technology associate at Morgan Stanley in London. He has a both a first degree and an MSc in maths and computer science from the University of Oxford. In 2005, aged just 15, Bogdan won the Romanian national mathematics Olympiad.
Of course, winning an International Olympiad against competitors from 100 different countries – or even a national Olympiad against competitors from your home country – may not necessarily be an indication that you’re the very best mathematician in finance (or the world). To win, you have to enter, and in many countries entrance is biased towards students from elite high schools. Olympiads are worth a try, however: banks, hedge funds, and tech companies like Google are known to take a strong interest in mathematical Olympiads as sources of future hires.