My name is Leigh Collier and I am a Quantitative Analyst at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. A Quantitative Analyst (or a “Quant” for short) is a role with a skillset that sits in the intersection between mathematics, programming and finance. It brings knowledge from these disciplines together to develop and implement mathematical models which help in solving and understanding specific problems within the financial industry. This may range from how different financial markets evolve and interact, to calculating fair prices for a variety of complex financial products. It is a very varied role, and in a normal day I could, e.g., be reading mathematical papers, programming a new algorithm or looking at data to spot patterns in the market.
I found out about the role of a Quant from an online article. At this point I was studying for an undergraduate degree in mathematics with the aim of a following master’s degree and beyond. From my reading I instantly became interested in the real-world application of the maths I loved. During a summer internship in a technology division I had a very supportive manager who encouraged me to think about my career and what I wanted out of it. I told him I had an interest in becoming a Quant and he kindly arranged for me to go and meet a Quant team within the firm. I never looked back from there!
In terms of the skills and requirements needed to become a Quant, the best start is a strong background in mathematics. However, that does not necessarily mean doing a maths degree! We also hire people with degrees in, e.g., physics, computer science and engineering who have shown a great enthusiasm for the work we do. The vast majority of Quants have at least a master’s degree in a related field with around half having a PhD. At an entry level the programming skills are important as well as showing interest and aptitude for picking up finance knowledge, although these skills can be further developed on the job. The last important set of skills that people often forget is the “soft skills”. These are necessary to be able to communicate advanced concepts to a wide variety of people without maths backgrounds and to be able to solve problems with people from a variety of different backgrounds.
My favourite part of my job is how dynamic and variable it is. I can arrive in the morning thinking I will do one thing but the urgent needs and requirements will often change over the course of the day and I have to adapt my thinking or view of a problem to suit the current demands. I am never bored and often find my work challenging as I search for solutions to a variety of problems. Fortunately, I work in a supportive team who collaborate well to resolve the sticky problems together!
The best piece of advice I would give to anyone pursuing a Quant role would be that the technical skills can be learned, so being the best mathematician or programmer in the world is not the be all and end all. Beyond the baseline needed for a Quant career, as long as you can demonstrate aptitude and enthusiasm to learn this puts you in a great place to handle the changing demands of the role and industry.
To find out more about becoming a Quant I would suggest undertaking online research. There you can find career events to go to and meet a variety of people from different roles to help you learn more about the financial industry. The maths/statistics departments at Universities often have professional contacts in the industry, so it is worth using the contacts you may have access to through your lecturers to help you build connections in the financial industry.
For more information on careers at Bank of America please refer to campus.bankofamerica.com.
This piece was written by Leigh from Bank of America Merrill Lynch.