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Another finance analyst thread.

  1. Jul 28, 2010 #1
    Hi there.

    Sorry for the lengthy thread! Please persevere :smile:

    I have seen that there are many of these threads - so apologies for the bits that overlap. I have tried to keep this as 'original' as possible - but with all of the help I have had so far from browsing this forum I couldn't resist getting some feedback on my own situation.

    I am a physics graduate who is now mid-way through a PhD. I am studying applications of graph theory in biology. I'm hoping that the graph theory part of my PhD will be of interest to finance, and I think when the time comes to apply, I am interested in becoming a Quant - something analytical in finance in any case. I have experience with both R and MATLAB and I plan on self-learning some C++ before application time.

    Part of the reason I have started this thread is to ask anyone that works in finance or recruitment - I am seeing lots of jobs advertised in the UK that state that a "PhD in science/mathematics"...yada yada, is required, which is fine. But some also mention that a 'first class undergraduate degree' is also required - how strict is this?

    I ask because, obviously, I do not have a first class undergraduate degree. My degree was in physics and mathematics (combined - this is the UK system, remember) and I achieved a 2:1. However, my degree is an Msci - an undergraduate masters, which was 5 years and contains what are considered a bunch of 'grad level' courses. Any insight into whether or not this will cause me a hinderance?

    Also, I go to a good university, and my undergraduate degree was at a good university. Not a 'great' university, however. That is, I graduated in the UK but didn't go to Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial or Durham.

    Lastly, there is obviously a great difference between the timescale of a PhD in the US than the UK - will this have an effect on whether or not I can hope of an entry job in the US?

    I am willing to move just about anywhere in the world for an opportunity like this: I have had a bit of experience with mathematical finance since one of my collaborators carries that as a second interest - and I loved it. Are there enough of these jobs going around for someone like me to have a chance? I know I will find out in time, and that I can't get a definitive answer from randoms on the internet - but I would like to know if I'm being over-optimistic and should start looking at alternatives.

    Kind Regards,

  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 29, 2010 #2
    Welcome to the forums, Neil.Thompson!

    I don't work in finance, but since no-one else has replied to you yet :smile:

    I have a friend that made the jump from science to become an actuary. He makes what I consider to be very good money - on occasionally works on projects that could be considered under the umbrella of quantitative analysis. Almost everything he has mentioned to me has been about C++ coding in some form or another, so if you are interested in coding finance then perhaps an acturial position might be of interest, too (though I don't know much about the profession in general, so I'm not sure how typical his role is).

    I am sure you have already seen but:

    Seems to advertise a lot of jobs you could look at. Presumably the entry positions are those that either say 'entry' or 'junior'... - it looks to me like R and MATLAB fit the bill perfectly, and having skill in C++ would just be another score for your application.
  4. Jul 29, 2010 #3
    Thank you for you reply. I am familiar with that website, but I'm entirely sure about the positions that I should reasonably apply for. Most of them are clear with requirements - but I'm not sure to which extent these are 'minimum requirements'. I will just have to apply and see if I hear back.

    It just feels a little suspicious to see entry level positions at £50k+ basic with 1-3x more again as bonus. That is a lot of money.


  5. Jul 29, 2010 #4
    With the exception of one major hedge fund, no one I know in banking cares where you got your undergraduate. Also one good bit of good news is that different companies care about different things. Some companies and groups sneer at people with "Ivy League" credentials. That one hedge fund and a lot of finance consulting firms insist on it, and will toss your resume in the trash if you don't go to a certain set of schools. So what?

    Something to remember is that you can only get employed full time by one company at a time so it doesn't matter how many people trash your resume as long as you find at least one company that gives you a job.

    Also the rules are different for MBA's and Ph.D.'s. The other thing is to not pay too much addition to things that purport to talk about "Wall Street hiring practices." Things can be very different between companies and even between different groups in the same company.

    As long as you get a job somewhere, does it matter? One good thing about industry is it is much more tolerant of "imperfection" (i.e. real people). Yes, you will find it easier to get a job if you can walk on water and have a Fields Medal, but if you don't, you aren't dead.

    I don't think there is that much of a difference.

    Get an internship to see if you really like it. To give a crude analogy, most people like sex, but once you do it for a living, it's different.

    This is one reason companies what to hire interns and people with work experience. If you've never worked in a work environment, then there is a risk that you'll come to work, and find out that you HATE the job. If you have an internship or work experience, that reduces the chance that you'll come in with unrealistic expectations.

    Just to give an example. People at work talk a lot about their latest cell phone or electronic gadget or trip to Europe. People at work don't talk about their yachts or their maids or their sports cars, because people at work can't afford yachts or maids or sports cars. This gives you a realistic idea of how much money people make.

    This is also why companies like Ph.D.'s. Every physics Ph.D. I know grows up with some vision of what science is like, and when you get your Ph.D., you'll find that its harder and less glamorous than you thought it would be. The fact that you can have your dreams dented and still put out a dissertation is something really important.

    There are jobs out there. Now whether those jobs are what you think they are is something I can't answer for certain.
  6. Jul 29, 2010 #5
    For a entry level Ph.D. GBP 50K + 30-50% bonus is a reasonable expectation. The thing about bonus is that its not guaranteed.

    If you happen to be in a group that hits the jackpot (for example if you happen to trade oil futures exactly at the moment space aliens steal the worlds oil), you *could* make 1-3x bonus, but that's like hitting the lottery.

    Also, you'll be working in London and NYC where taxes are really, really high, and half your bonus will go to the government in normal times, and last year was not normal.

    One reason thing to remember is that last year the British government slapped a special bonus tax, so a lot of companies in London were forced to pay extraordinarily high bonuses so that people got anything at all. So yes, last year, some UK companies paid huge bonuses to junior people, but Her Majesty's Inland Revenue got most of it.
  7. Jul 29, 2010 #6
    twofish-quant, what an excellent duo of replies - thank you very much. That you spend so much time sharing your experience for nothing in return is a real credit to what you must be like as a person. I am sure you could hold down your own website with the kind of insight and advice you provide.

    I take your point that an internship is a good idea - and I agree. I do have opportunities at post-doc level to consider, and I do think I would enjoy the academic environment but, from what I have read so far, finance edges in front. I think I will begin the search for an internship, though I have no idea what to expect - if there is pay/how much, I live in the far north of England so I would certainly have to relocate for the duration of the position, too. Even where to search for internships - are many of these positions handed out with speculative applications, for instance? The job websites I have been looking on so far make it seem as though much of the recruitment is done through agencies.

    Thanks again,

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