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Autumn term is underway! Here’s what we’ve learnt so far…

s.duran1 November 2021

This October, we’ve held two events for researchers to explore careers outside academia. Focussing on the consulting and economics, finance, and quantitative analysis industries, we heard from speakers at Accenture, EY-Parthenon, JP Morgan, Deliveroo, and Deloitte, among others. In case you weren’t able to attend, here’s some of the key takeaways we learnt:

Consider your soft skills and achievements

If you’re interested in a role in consultancy or finance, you should consider the soft skills you can bring to that employer. Across the board, speakers mentioned key soft skills crucial to these industries: communication, stakeholder management, cultural sensitivity, professionalism, collaboration, and an ability to challenge and be challenged, and a willingness to learn.

When considering your achievements, one speaker recommended bringing in a friend to help you decide what’s important. They recommended, “Write all of your achievements on a piece of paper – tell a friend. What you think of as your most memorable achievement may not be. You see things from a certain prism, and what you think is outstanding for you may not be outstanding for someone else. Have a third party help you in that part of the recruitment process”.

 

Use networking to prepare for the interview

You are likely aware that networking can help you land an interview, but don’t count it out once you’ve reached that stage. Networking can also play a critical role in understanding a role and company. A website can tell you generic information, but speaking to someone in that sector, or better yet, at that employer, will give you a huge advantage. Demonstrating your knowledge of the opportunities and constraints of a role can make you stand out amongst a crowd. According to our speakers, in the consulting world, “A recruiter may see 10-20 people in 3 days, you need to stand out”.

 

Know what to expect

Roles within consultancy can be well-paid, but very busy. As one consultant put it, “It’s not work-life balance, it’s work-life integration.” Although it may be busy, the added “companies value developing you as an individual, as you cannot be a successful consultant without meeting new people and building new relationships”.

In the economics, finance and quantitative analysis world, the hours can vary. If you are client-facing or in a role impacted by financial market changes, you may be looking at ten hour days (or ore). In a background research or economist role, you could expect a more typical work pattern, but this will change depending on your employer.

 

You can find more workshops and employer-led events through the Autumn Term Researcher’s Careers Calendar.

Life as a quantitative analyst

uczjsdd2 June 2016

Joe StainesDr Joe Staines has a PhD in Financial Computing from UCL’s UK PhD Centre in Financial Computing, and is now a quantitative analyst at a large bank owned asset management firm in New York. We spoke to Joe about his transition from academia to banking.

Tell us a bit about your role

I’m both a quantitative researcher and a portfolio manager. Research in the context of our business is faster moving than academia and requires a very different style of communication. Combining research with portfolio management affords insight into the practical application of ideas. Much like how excellent medical research is often done by practicing medical doctors, “quants” can have a foot in both camps: as a practitioner and a researcher.

How did you move from academia to your current role?

I first found out about the sector by chance. I was lucky enough to have a supervisor during an unrelated internship who recognised that it might be something that would interest me. It took a lot of dead ends to find the career that appealed, and even then the inspiration came from a serendipitous meeting in an otherwise failed summer of work (I didn’t get offered the job, and indeed didn’t want it).

Once I was aware of the sector, I applied for entry level roles. This led to more opportunities and meant that my CV instantly stood out. I trusted that a good employer would recognise my contributions and give me opportunities as I proved worthy. This is not a path for everyone, it can feel like a retrograde step to enter a peer group of fresh graduates, but has ultimately worked exactly as planned for me.

What does a normal working day look like for you?

A normal working day is split between coding, writing, absorbing external research and market data, and the day-to-day mechanics of portfolio management (checking and double-checking everything, attention to detail is paramount).

What are the best bits?

I like the variety of challenges: technical, intellectual, interpersonal.

And the worst?

The hardest part is trying to maintain a high standard in areas of weakness, an unavoidable consequence of the breadth of skill-set required.

Is a PhD essential for your role? What skills do you use from your PhD in your current role?

Not essential, but it certainly gives you an edge. It’s a signal to colleagues and clients about how you might be useful. This can be frustrating if you don’t want to be pigeonholed as a technical person.

What’s the progression like?

Progression is very business dependent. Responsibility takes three forms: investment decision-making responsibility, responsibility for communication, and management responsibility. The first two are what interest me, so I hope to grow in that direction.

Any top tips for researchers interested in this type of work?

Quant finance encompasses a wide variety of roles and teams. Be sure that the job you’re being hired for is the one you’re passionate about. Unlike academia, finance doesn’t necessarily prioritize innovation. Doing simple things well and minimizing error and risk are paramount, so prepare yourself for a shift of mind-set if you’re interested in making the switch.