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Optiver graduate stories: pathways to a career in research


Noah
Options Research

What attracted you to apply to Optiver?
At first it was the friendliness of the Recruitment team, who I met at a careers fair. After that it just got more and more fascinating as I hear about the maths and probability behind the trading problem – potentially unbounded complexity and a fascinating puzzle.

What team do you work in and what are they responsible for?
I’m in the Options Pricing Research team. We are responsible for leveraging historical and live data to iterate upon and improve the options prices that we show the market. In close collaboration with Trading, we develop models and projects to provide tools for traders to apply and integrate into their systematic position taking.

Describe an interesting project?
Currently I’m managing a project on positional allocation for one of our teams. When they often trade hundreds of instruments at a time, it can be very tricky to know the optimal position allocation between the instruments beyond gut feel/experience. We feel this is a key area where there is opportunity for a data-driven approach to have huge impact, and it is great to be given this opportunity so early in my career.

What keeps you motivated?
There are always problems and projects which need attention – the job is never done for us in Research. Pretty much every one of these problems has some interesting maths behind it and it can be very rewarding to see the concrete impact of your work on the company. The support provided by Talent and my team management is also second to none.

What was your training like?
The training program was very cohesive, comprehensive, and really builds your industry knowledge base from the ground up. Optiver made a great effort to make the program accessible to those not from a finance background. The Head of Education would give us detailed and fascinating explanations of key concepts, and we would immediately get to go and apply them to the simulations, projects, or discuss them with the experienced traders on the floor during the many trader shadowing opportunities. Importantly, the program was just an enjoyable time – plenty of healthy collaboration and friendly competition from within the group creates a positive environment to expedite the learning process.

What do you love most about your role/Optiver?
I love getting to see some of the more niche maths I learned at university have a direct measurable application to a ‘real world problem’.  For example, concepts such as stochastic analysis, time series analysis, statistical inference often when taught at university can be hard to see how they apply to the world outside of the abstract. This is just one of the rewarding and fascinating things you get out of working at Optiver.

If I could pick a second thing it would be the people – I am yet to meet someone who isn’t respectful, intelligent, driven and fun to be around. You always look forward to going to work if only to catch up with your team!

Do you have any tips for graduates going through the process?
Perhaps the big tip I can give is never to settle – even once you have made it through the process you need to keep that drive alive, and hit the ground running to get the most out of Optiver.



Rob
Performance Researcher

What team do you work in and what are they responsible for?
I’m in the Performance Research team, who focus on execution, speed and success. Identifying profitable trades to make is only one part of the process. Once that has happened, you have to execute. In order to execute the best, my team analyses and theorises about everything from low level systems and networking protocols, up to higher level trading algorithm strategy optimisations.

Describe your current role?
My current role is focussed on statistically analysing the exchange system from a networking/OS level. I take an understanding of what all our trading systems are trying to accomplish, get really into the minutia of the networking data we’ve captured and theorise about what’s happening in this exchange “black box”. I’ll come up with experiments to test these theories, and if there are improvements, I’ll work with Traders and Developers to get the results into production.

What keeps you motivated?
The rush of those ‘eureka’ moments can be addictive – where everything clicks into place. It’s challenging, and sometimes it’s a long time between. But it’s all worth it when you get the satisfaction of really figuring something out.

What was your training like?
I’ve been here for over two years and I still feel like I’m in training (in a good way) – you will never know everything! When I joined, I had a lot of team support, help with dissecting what I found, and how that related to Optiver’s systems.

What do you love most about your role/Optiver?
Most? Now that’s a hard question. I love that I have the autonomy to focus on problems that I will have the most impact on. We’re all on the same team, and when people are able to do their best, Optiver does its best.

Do you have any tips for graduates going through the process?
Most importantly, apply! The worst way to miss a good trade is to not shoot for it! Secondly, not knowing everything is okay, take time to show what you are good at. Also, try to be concrete when talking about how you would approach a problem. The role is about taking large abstract problems, breaking them down, and actually doing the work to solve them. We want to see that you can break a problem down to the point where you can articulate the actions you will take to solve it.

What attracted you to apply to Optiver?
In high frequency trading, the competitive market means the problems you solve can’t stay the same – they keep getting harder, and you have to keep challenging yourself. I find this incredibly motivating, and the team at Optiver is so open and collaborative – it’s the best environment to solve hard problems in!



Dom
D1 Researcher

What first attracted you to Optiver?
I was initially drawn in by the friendliness of the employees I met during the interview process, and I really liked the prospect of being able to use my mathematical skills to write algorithms that compete against others in the market. Everyone seemed to love the problems they were working on, and since working here I would say that’s definitely the case.

What does your role entail?
I mainly work on improving our existing trading algorithms and making new ones. This can entail all kinds of things – from optimising our machine learning to figuring out how to best execute our trades in the market. There is really a huge variety.

What key skills are required?
Having a decent mathematical and coding background definitely helps, but the most important skills are having an analytical and critical mindset and being able to pick things up quickly. I had pretty minimal programming experience before joining and very little finance knowledge, but I was able to learn them on the job. The grad program also teaches you all the fundamentals of trading.

How were you supported to learn during your graduate program?
There were 12 weeks of formal training to begin with, which consisted of lectures, trading games, hands-on exercises and projects. My favourite was a project where we spent two weeks in teams, writing trading algorithms to compete against each other. After that, I spent a few more weeks with my team, where my team members taught me how to operate and contribute to the spot. Throughout all of this, I also received support with a mentor from another spot.

What are some of the projects you are working on?
I’m currently integrating some work done by other teams into our trading algorithms, which will improve our models’ ability to predict trends in the market.

How do you start your day at Optiver?
I’ll start by checking how our algorithms performed overnight and look into any particularly interesting events for clues about potential improvements. I’ll read some company analysis on global events and discuss any upcoming project work with my team.

What do you love about your work?
I love the end-to-end oversight of the trading pipeline that I have in my role. It’s a great deal of responsibility, but you’re able to understand exactly where the money comes from and find all sorts of places to optimise things. I also really enjoy the level of collaboration and teamwork that I have in my role – since working here I’ve done projects with almost every team.

What keeps you motivated?
The prospect of undiscovered mathematics, algorithms and technology that can better explain what’s happening in the market. We’re at the cutting edge of technology and it’s exciting to come into work at Optiver and keep pushing the boundaries.

Do you have interests outside of work that help you in your role?
I enjoy messing around a bit with machine learning outside of work, but mainly in my off time I like exercising, seeing live music and watching TV.

What’s your advice to potential applicants?
Don’t worry about whether you have the right qualifications, if the work sounds interesting to you then just apply! It also helps to just be yourself in the interview, that will give the interviewers the best idea about whether you’ll actually enjoy working here or not.

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