Banks are hiring for data science and they don't mind if the data scientists they hire don't have a finance background - just so long as they have an excellent quantitative pedigree.
The latest addition to J.P. Morgan's London data science team personifies the description of a desirable data scientist. Jeffrey De Jong has a PhD in experimental particle physics from the University of Alberta. He has conducted research into the identification of rare cosmic rays using neural networks at the University of Oxford. He's spent the past three and a half years working as a senior data scientist at King, the games development company behind the Candy Crush Saga and Farm Heroes. At no point has he worked in finance.
This doesn't matter. In a world where finance is reducible to data, the ability to manipulate data is all that matters.
De Jong's joined J.P. Morgan's Chief Data Office, run by Afsheen Afshar. Afshar arrived in January last year after spending five years at Goldman Sachs and has been building out the bank's data function. Other recruits include Ganesh Chandrasekar, a former associate from Goldman Sachs, and Bruce (Guangyu) Wang, from HungryTickets.com. As we reported last month, J.P. Morgan has also hired Geoffrey Zweig from Microsoft to build a machine learning function.
While the suited Afshar blends in well with the J.P. Morgan look-book, De Jong is a bit more out there. Bald and with an impressive red beard, he's more likely to be found in a colourful t-shirt than a grey suit. As banks build out their data teams with non-finance types, they may need to relax their dress codes.