Engineering, Finance, and now Algo Trading - This CFO is doing it all

6 min read

There aren’t many Algorithmic Trading enthusiasts like the likes of EPAT Alumnus, Rubén Martínez Fanals. He is an engineer, a Masters holder and the CFO of a portfolio of renewable energy investments in Central America with over a decade of experience. Rubén started with sales and account management, and then established himself in the renewable energy sector.

Learning is the thing that keeps him going, which you can identify with his many licenses and certifications. We connected with Rubén during this Covid-19 lockdown for sharing his journey. Here’s how our discussion went.

Hi Rubén, tell us about yourself

Hi! I’m Rubén Martínez Fanals. I’m a Spaniard working as a CFO for a private equity fund and I’m based in Panama City, Panamá. I’m currently in the lockdown with my family, but most importantly, healthy and fine for the time being. And sustainable for now amidst the present coronavirus situation.

I’m a curious and passionate guy who is trying to get better every day by squeezing out time for learning new skills. I enjoy reading and spending time with my son.

I hold a Masters Degree in Engineering, with additional studies in Finance, and the Executive Programme in Algorithmic Trading (EPAT) to name a few. My Masters in Renewable Energies allowed me to progress in my career in the energy sector.

Sales, Product Marketing, Finance - you’ve grown consistently professionally, to your present role as a CFO & Investment Manager.

What has your professional journey been like?

It has been an amazing journey of 12+ years of comprehensive experience in the renewable energy sector. I have worked in 4 different countries across 3 main roles: Finance and Investment Management, Product Management and Marketing, and Sales and Account Management.

2006 - I moved from Spain to Germany to start working for a corporate in the mechanical engineering sector. I started reading books on forex, technical analysis, and trading aspects but it wasn’t helpful. Back then I wasn’t aware of any institute related to Quant Finance or Algorithmic Trading. I made a few investments too which obviously went wrong, so I parked that field for a while.

2008 - I returned to Spain and started as a sales engineer for a wind turbine manufacturer. The market crash had just happened; it was quite a bumpy period.

2010 - I moved from sales to a product marketing role in the wind turbines sector. This was when I came in contact with the financial side of it viz business cases, financial models, investment, equity, the return of equity etc. I kind of liked that.

2012 - I came across some web pages advising how one could become a Quant Trader. I realised it was not sustainable without support, perseverance and self-discipline.

2013 - I discovered MOOCs - and I started to take courses in Finance in my spare time.

2015 - I moved from Spain to New York with my family to start working for a private equity fund which was investing in renewable energies in Latin America. I started as a senior associate, steadily growing in responsibilities. I started focusing more on solar energy.

Years went by and now I’m responsible for the challenging yet exciting financial management of the portfolio of investments in Central America.

My experience with trading is not that wide. I started just like millions of other people with technical analysis and squinting at graphs but that didn’t work for me, so I started Algo Trading.

I’m still progressing and I’m glad I didn’t seriously start with it due to the coronavirus situation. Right now, the market is holding me back. I’m proceeding slowly, step by step, building my foundation first and then to build on them.

Why did you choose to learn Algorithmic Trading with EPAT?

Some time ago, in Bloomberg, I read about an Algorithmic Fund that was applying Algorithmic Trading techniques using programming languages, which caught my attention.

In my opinion, Python is the first thing that you have to learn to make this journey. I understood that Python was the cornerstone of Algorithmic Trading, so I started learning Python. I did some online courses on Python from Michigan university among others.

After several courses and hours spent, I wasn’t satisfied with my learning. One day, while researching, I came across QuantInsti’s advertisement which caught my attention. I started learning about it and downloaded the brochures. I connected with an EPAT Alumnus to understand his views of EPAT. Post that, I decided to enroll. I would say that was the beginning of my Algorithmic Trading journey.

For me, EPAT is like opening a door to this vast sector. Before enrolling, I thought that after 6 months of training and learning, I would be ready to start my Algo Trading desk. That I would start applying my algorithms, but in my case, that’s not true.

I feel these 6 months are the beginning to skim through the immensity of this world. It is good preparation so that you know what are the next steps in the direction that you wish to pursue.

I realised that I have to segment the learnings to take the first steps. Since I don’t have much time available after work, I decided to take very little steps at a time. So, now I don’t consider myself to be ready yet to be trading daily or for short periods. Let alone high frequency trading which is beyond my scope for now.

I have decided to go slow, to avoid getting frustrated and to receive good results. The goal that I’ve set for myself is to start with basic passive investments in portfolios.

I’m building a portfolio of ETFs, trying to reduce volatility as much as possible. I’ll then combine them to create the perfect frontier portfolio ie. maximum possible return with minimum possible volatility. Since it doesn’t require much oversight, I’m building it in my spare time and I expect to start investing in it very soon. Once I’m comfortable with that, I’ll work on the next steps - like increasing the frequency, developing algorithms, etc.

In the future, I will have to evolve and become more sophisticated. But for the time being, I’m practising passive portfolios as it is the most appropriate for me. Building a stable portfolio doesn’t require much attention but they grow slowly and steadily over time.

Which feature of EPAT did you like the most?

I’m glad that I decided to enroll in EPAT. The learning at EPAT is very rounded up, it is very well built and very comprehensive.

I admire the practical lessons in which we apply some of the strategies that we have learned eg. Excel in strategies to get a good picture; and the courses in Python. The course learning material, the knowledge and skills gained would surely be applied in the near future. If you’re interested in EPAT, just go for it.

This is the beginning of the journey which opens up the gates of this world. You have to spend many more hours doing research, practising, and honing your skills. It is highly recommended for someone with motivation and time.

Do you have any message for the aspiring Algo Traders out there?

This journey requires motivation and passion. If you’re doing that just for the money, or if you’re looking at the riches in this world, don’t go for it because then you would be disappointed.

It is time-consuming and you have to be passionate. You must enjoy creating algorithms, doing research, overseeing the markets, etc. You have to find joy in this journey.

Thank you for sharing your complete journey with us, Rubén. We’re glad to learn of your progress and wish you all the best in your career and trading prowess.

We’re humbled by your kind words about EPAT, and this encourages us to strive even more in serving Algo Trading aspirants out there.

EPAT ensures that you are proficient in every skill required to excel in the field of trading. It covers topics such as Statistics & Econometrics, Financial Computing & Technology, Machine Learning. Equip yourself with lifelong skills which will always help you in upgrading your trading strategies. Enquire here.

Disclaimer: In order to assist individuals who are considering pursuing a career in algorithmic and quantitative trading, this case study has been collated based on the personal experiences of a student or alumni from QuantInsti’s EPAT® programme. Case studies are for illustrative purposes only and are not meant to be used for investment purposes. The results achieved post completion of the EPAT® programme may not be uniform for all individuals.

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