Tech in Finance
The core focus of this year’s Summit was on trends at the intersection of technology and traditional finance:
Applied statistics and coding skills are continuing to become more valuable and in some areas they are now essential. The greatest value, however, lies in being able to bridge traditional finance and technology. It is not enough to simply develop traditional skills and take some CS courses – you have to understand the strategy behind putting technical skills / resources to use. Understanding the big picture will not only make you a more valuable candidate but will also help you decide where you should be applying in the first place.
If you are not sure which specific languages to learn first, start with Python – it’s incredibly versatile. For advanced statistics, R is currently the usual go-to. For engineers, Java is a must; you may also want to build experience with its cousin, Scala. Whatever languages you choose, make sure you can talk to prospective employers about how you have used them outside of class.
|Thinking ahead||It is becoming increasingly difficult to predict how technology will change business. To future-proof yourself, it is important to not only continue building new skills but also to identify and maintain contact with thought leaders and key decision makers in the industry.|
For insights into how buy-side firms think about data science, you can read through recaps of events held by Augvest here. Augvest is a buy-side alternative data community which started out as a platform to showcase our students’ work; it has grown to over 500 members representing 150+ hedge funds, PE firms, and VCs.
Some advice the industry reps gave was specific to campus recruiting and to running student investing groups:
Students at top universities are inundated with information from large sell-side firms, leading them to assume that there is little demand for their talent elsewhere. This could not be further from the truth. Most buy-side firms avoid going to campus only because it is so difficult to break through the sell-side cacophony; these include highly prestigious firms with compensation and exit opportunities far beyond what the bulge-brackets can offer. Try to learn what these smaller firms are, and don’t be shy about reaching out to them directly.
|Group leadership||Organisational success can come from less structure rather than more: fuel members with interesting problems and give them the resources to tackle those problems. This more closely parallels what work is actually like in the industry. To ensure your members make the most of the resources you give them, when screening prospective new members look for evidence of initiative and follow-through – rather than just advance knowledge of finance or investing.|
For recruiting, LinkedIn is the single best resource you have. Actively reach out to your school’s / group’s alumni in the industry.
For more ideas on how to run your group, please see this recap of a past Leaders’ Summit held specifically to establish consensus on what constitutes best practices in running a student investing / trading club.
In break-out discussions, several student attendees said they found a few pieces of personal advice helpful:
Careers are seldom linear. Your job responsibilities will evolve as you become more senior, your own interests will inevitably change, and there are always new trends you can either worry about or get involved in. If you don’t think ahead to the kinds of opportunities the work you are doing will open up for you down the road, you can find yourself pigeonholed. Make sure some of the hard skills you are developing can be applied to a wide variety of other roles.
|Building your network||In the course of building out your network, work to understand what the different types of people are out there – and try to identify your tribe. Observe what people of your tribe tend to do, patterns in the types of careers they find personally fulfilling. Chances are you will be happier working with people of your tribe, and there is also higher probability they will recognize your potential and mentor you.|