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Optiver grad stories: From Chemistry student to Risk graduate

At Optiver, we value collaboration and continuous improvement. You’re given significant responsibility early on and surrounded by best-in-class colleagues, who are keen to support you to grow every day. Discover Optiver’s graduate opportunities:

Tim, one of our Market Risk Graduates, shares his experience in our graduate program and what it’s like to work at Optiver.

What did you study and how is it relevant to your role at Optiver?
I studied Chemistry at the University of Sydney, which was a great background to have as I knew the chemical symbols when we start trading new metals. Jokes aside, while the content itself wasn’t relevant to my role, the skills that I learnt (such as problem solving, logical reasoning, critical thinking and an analytical and scientific approach) definitely are.

What attracted you to apply for Optiver?
I was attracted by the opportunity to solve interesting problems in a fast-paced environment, the chance to have an impact early on, the informal yet collaborative working culture and learning about a different field to what I studied.

What do you do in your role?
In risk, we’re responsible for the market, credit and automated trading risks of Optiver. As part of my role, I’m involved in monitoring and assessing these risks, reviewing current risk frameworks, and developing new or improved frameworks to cover different risks. We work closely with:

  • Trading to expand into new business initiatives while maintaining a healthy risk appetite
  • Tech to develop new tooling to monitor and analyse risks, and we
  • Provide opinions to senior risk stakeholders and management on any limit requests or new products or strategies.

To put it in a more relatable context, imagine you’re the organiser for a big ticketed event with live music, food trucks and carnival games. A market risk could be that you don’t sell enough tickets to the event, or you sell them too cheaply to cover all your costs. A credit risk could be that you pay deposits to secure the band, but they don’t show up and never pay you back. An automated risk could be that you accidentally sell the tickets for $1 instead of $10 due to a typo.
The role will analyse those risks and put limits and controls in place so that even if something happens, you can still throw another party next year, learning from any mistakes. We will work closely with the event planner (Trading) and IT to develop these controls.

Imagine then that you want to expand and throw an additional party over Halloween. We will then analyse whether the frameworks that are in place for a normal party are applicable to a Halloween party. Perhaps we need additional considerations, such as the competitiveness of Halloween parties. We will share all of these opinions with senior stakeholders for their approval, ranging from a senior risk manager to the CEO.

What are some of the projects you are working on (non-confidential)?
Trading are looking to expand the products we trade. As a result I’ve been reviewing our limit framework around these risks to ensure that they are appropriate and within appetite, and not introducing any unintended risks. We are also expanding into a range of new markets and I’m advising what needs to be done to maintain our risk controls.

Both of these projects require collaboration across a range of teams, making clear communication very important, as well as a critical mindset to consider the risks and come up with creative solutions. These kinds of projects aren’t only given to more senior team members, grads will also work on projects that would have immediate business impact.

What are some of the key skills required for your role?
Critical thinking, logical reasoning and a strong sense of curiosity, drive and self-reflection. It is also important to have strong communication skills, confidence to challenge others, as well as be comfortable with being challenged.

What’s your favourite part of the job?
Working on a wide range of interesting problems with smart people, in an informal and approachable environment.

How were you supported to learn during your graduate program?
I started as a Trading graduate at Optiver. For the first 12 weeks, the education team took us through the theory and application of the theory in simulated trading, with support from traders . Then I spent 3 months on the trading floor, with a mentor who taught and challenged my thinking. From there, I moved into risk where I was supported by another mentor, but also given space to learn for myself.

If you had one piece of advice for future candidates, what would it be?
Risk is a fun and dynamic role that requires a whole range of skills and an interest in financial markets. During the application process, share your passions, hobbies and interests, and think about the skills you’ve gained from them that relate to the role. Be open and honest, you don’t want to end up in a role that isn’t right for your strengths!

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