How to get a job in a High-Frequency Trading firm

11 min read

Ever dreamt of working in the fast-paced world of high-frequency trading (HFT)?
If you're a quantitative whiz with a passion for algorithmic thinking, an HFT career might be your perfect fit.

Curious about how to land that coveted job in HFT?
Where do you even begin?
It all boils down to mastering the industry landscape and sharpening your skills to fit the bill. Cracking into this competitive field requires a specific skillset and in-depth knowledge of HFT job requirements.

Look no further than this one-stop guide! We'll shed light on everything you need to know about how to get a job in HFT, from the essential qualifications to acing the interview process in an HFT firm. Our experts share their insights, giving you a clear roadmap to navigate your entry into this dynamic industry.

Working at a high-frequency trading firm is not only thrilling but also quite rewarding, provided you have the knowledge and expertise in the HFT domain. With all the in-depth information regarding working at an HFT firm, this article will be your golden ticket to landing your dream HFT job. It covers:


What is High-Frequency Trading?

High-Frequency Trading is a special category of algorithmic trading characterized by holding period of securities ranging from microseconds to a few minutes. HFT requires powerful computers and excellent network architecture to transact with data at very high speeds. HFT needs to have low-latency response times and high trading volumes for the system to work successfully. HFT also requires tick-by-tick data and a good understanding of the market microstructure.

The global high-frequency trading market size was USD 7778 million in 2021 and is projected to reach USD 12590 million by 2028, exhibiting a CAGR of 11.8%
(Source: Business Research Insights)

HFT strategies are mainly divided into market making, statistical arbitrage, momentum trading, mean-reversion, long-short, breakout etc.


Impact of High Frequency Trading

High-Frequency Trading helps in:

Increasing liquidity

Liquidity refers to the ability and ease with which assets can be converted into cash without affecting the current asset price in the market to a great extent. Market liquidity refers to the extent to which a market allows assets such as stocks, bonds, or derivative products, to be bought and sold without paying a huge bid-ask spread. As the number of trades entered increase, orders may lead to more liquidity in the market.

Spread narrowing

The HFT traders may provide the most competitive bid-ask prices, which may result in the narrowing of bid-ask spreads. Spread is the difference between the immediate best ask price and the immediate best bid price of a security. It is basically the difference between the lowest price a seller is willing to accept and the highest price buyer is willing to pay for an asset. If the bid price of a stock is $49 and ask price is $50, then the bid-ask spread is $1.

Improving market efficiency

HFT algorithms incorporate numerous chunks of information in a short time. High-frequency trading technology is the fastest as it can process the market information and invest in the gainful assets within a fraction of second.  Thus, the market reflects prices quickly and accurately with no human glitch. Algorithms are free of human emotions (unlike humans) and thus, put forth the market information logically for gainful investing.

So, if you aspire to join an HFT firm, this begs the question:
What are the different roles at an HFT firm?


Job roles at an HFT Firm

Mainly there are following four job roles at an HFT firm:

  • Quant Analyst / Model Developer
  • Strategy Developer
  • Trader
  • Networks/System Administrator

Quant Analyst / Model Developer

If you are interested in building models yourself and want to apply for a quant jobs, such as quant analyst/ model developer role, pick up quantitative skills with working knowledge of using quant tools such as R, Matlab, Python.
Skills required: Strong foundation in mathematics, statistics, programming (especially C++ and Python), financial modeling.

Strategy Developer

For strategy developer role, you would be expected to either code strategies, or maintain and modify existing strategies. Most likely you would be working with a quant analyst who would have developed the trading model and you would be required to code the strategy into an execution platform.
Skills required: Deep understanding of financial markets, quantitative analysis skills, experience with back-testing and optimization techniques.

Trader

For the trading role, your knowledge of finance would be crucial along with your problem-solving abilities. If you are good at puzzles and problem solving, you will enjoy the intricacies and complexities of the financial world.
Skills required: Strong understanding of financial markets, risk management expertise, ability to work under pressure and make quick decisions.

Networks / System Administrator

Core development work which involves maintaining the high-frequency trading platform and coding strategies are usually in C++ or JAVA. Hence, honing your C++ or core development language is definitely essential.
Skills required: Expertise in network infrastructure, system administration, knowledge of low-latency networking technologies.

Understanding what it takes to meet HFT job requirements is crucial for anyone eyeing a career in high-frequency trading. It's a blend of specific skills and know-how that can make all the difference in landing your dream job. Each role holds due importance with regard to the specialization in the particular field. As an aspiring HFT firm employee, you must find your niche and then apply for the job accordingly.

But, how to get into HFT?
Let us take a look at the qualifications aspect of an HFT firm employee further.


Qualifications required to get a job at an HFT firm

High-Frequency Trading is an extremely technical discipline and it attracts the very best candidates from varied areas of science and engineering - mathematics, physics, computer science and electronic engineering.

  • In the developed countries, you need a PhD in CS or Physics or Maths or an MFE degree to become a quant.
  • In the developing economies, an engineering degree in CS, or Maths, or an MBA in finance from a reputed college.

An advanced degree (Masters or PhD) in a quantitative field like Mathematics, Physics, Computer Science, or Electronic Engineering or an MFE in finance from a reputed- is generally preferred https://www.quantstart.com/articles/topic/quant-careers/.

Some firms might consider applicants with a strong Bachelor's degree in a relevant field, particularly if coupled with relevant work experience. Along with that, you surely need a zeal for problem-solving and coding. All this put together, you have a great chance to land up as a quant analyst or a quant developer in a High-Frequency Trading firm.

Key takeaway:

  • While the degree makes the resume presentable, do not consider it a barrier in case you don’t have one.
  • With a lot of practical work to show in your resume, you can be recognized by the industry as a potential employee.
  • Although one thing is for sure that, you need to be mentally prepared about investing a significant amount of time in studies (a bookworm? Probably Yes!) and need to make real good practical efforts as a quant trader or a quant developer.

Courses to pursue to qualify for a job at an HFT firm

Here's the scoop: enroll in those specialized HFT courses, dive into hands-on experience, and keep your finger on the pulse of the HFT job market to stay ahead of the curve.

You can consider pursuing them in order to gain an edge over competing candidates for a job at an HFT firm:

  • Engineering or an MBA: Many High-Frequency Trading candidates are employed straight from college in the relevant area. It's not much different than the campus for the tech industry, although it helps to show something relevant in your resume. It's also quite common for the best undergraduates to be hand-picked from the top technical schools (IITs, BITS, NIT) and then "trained" on the job.
  • Financial Exchange Experience: Individuals with insight into the inner workings of the exchanges being traded on will be highly sought after as they are likely to be able to help carry out research into new algorithms that can exploit the exchange architecture.

When it comes to HFT job requirements, it's about more than just having a degree. Employers are looking for a combination of technical skills, market knowledge, and a knack for problem-solving.


Skills needed to work at an HFT firm

The meritocratic approach of High-Frequency Trading firms usually allows significant autonomy in the projects. It isn't easy getting into HFT. If you wish to work with extremely smart and capable individuals, in a self-starting environment, then High-Frequency Trading is probably for you.

For instance, at one of the HFT firms, iRage, you will get to solve some extremely challenging engineering problems and shape the future of this lucrative industry while working alongside other exceptional programmers, quants and traders.

Note: iRage is a known associate of QuantInsti.

  • Ready to Evolve at a Fast Pace: The role of an HF Trader is very competitive, in the sense that you have to continuously evolve your system. And while being rewarding most of the time, it’s also disheartening when months of hard work and research goes to drain if exchange changes its architecture. At such a time, a new regulatory environment may surface or a competitor may be able to exploit a process at a rate faster than yours. But you need to ensure that you quickly evolve and be mentally prepared to face such adversities.
  • Entrepreneurial and Meritocratic Mindset: Now, most of the High-Frequency Trading firms are pretty small in size, usually fewer than 100 people. So, you should have a strong entrepreneurial culture and a meritocratic mindset. Given that, the bonus component in total algo trading salary is a multiple of your base pay. Hence, you will need to demonstrate an ability to generate revenue in order to earn that bonus. The flip-side to this process is that often you will be able to "create your own role" within the firm.
  • Longer Working Hours: Also, you must be prepared to work longer hours than usual. Since such roles often come with longer hours than many might be used to, 10-15 hours per day are not uncommon. The fast-paced growth, intellectual stimulation, and compensation generally outweigh the workload though.
  • Industrial Expertise: Experts in low latency software development are usually sought after. Expertise in the area of big data or machine learning is another way for you to enter this domain.

Tip: If you're eyeing a a job at an HFT firm, network like a pro, stay ahead of market trends, and showcase your expertise to make yourself irresistible to employers.

Breaking into the world of high-frequency trading means meeting certain HFT job requirements. That means having a solid grasp of algorithms, programming languages, and the ability to thrive in a fast-paced environment. For getting hired as a quant trader in a High-Frequency Trading firm, most of the ways require extensive technical skills. These skills need to come from one or more of the hard sciences such as mathematics, physics, computer science or electronic engineering.

Next, we will take a look at the job description for working at HFT firms.


Job descriptions at HFT firms

As an employee of an HFT firm, you need to take care of the important job responsibilities for which we have mentioned the job description below, so as to give you a fair idea of the same. So, at an HFT firm, you will be:

  • Working at the cutting edge of technology and quantitative research which will require you to be updated with the new technology with the time
  • Needed to have a highly motivated attitude for conducting research and for developing fully automated systematic strategies
  • Needed to create new systematic strategies from the ground up after which you will receive benefit from a profit-sharing model
  • Required to help improve existing strategies, carry out post trade analysis, day to day trading activities, etc.
  • Needed to hold interest in finance /algorithmic trading, prior knowledge of financial domain and derivatives is desirable but not necessary
  • Needed to  be comfortable with high paced work environment, and steep learning curve

Further, let us move on how to apply as a potential employee in an HFT firm.


Applying for a job at an HFT firm

While applying in an HFT firm, you can either apply directly to the HFT firm or take help of a recruitment agency for the same. The recruiters can usually help you get the job you are best suited for and in the company/firm that you desire to be a part of. Also, it is advised that you work hard on every aspect to get the job at an HFT firm, even after having a good educational background.

The most essential aspects to keep in mind while applying for a job at an HFT firm are:

  • Working on the missing skills: It is very important that you find out if you are missing out on some personal skills even after being really good with educational background. In case you need to develop the same, it is extremely crucial to take it seriously and build upon the same. You can avail the benefits from courses offered online such as Machine learning and deep learning in financial markets and Automated trading using Python for gaining further expertise.
  • Listing down HFT firms: The second most important step is to list down the career opportunities/firms where you aspire to hold a role. Some of the top HFT firms where you can apply are iRage, Edelweiss, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs.
  • Preparing for the interview: It is highly recommended that you take professional help by gaining knowledge from an individual who holds a role in one of the HFT firms. Also, you must actively prepare for interview questions. For this, networking can really help you. By using platforms such as LinkedIn, you can help yourself get an interview by showing your skills and talents. Getting an experience with the interviews a couple of times can also help prepare you for better opportunities.
  • Crafting a resume: Create a killer resume tailored to HFT roles, include all the relevant skills, learnings, experiences required to get that job at an HFT firm. This helps highlight your profile.
  • Professional development: Lastly and most importantly, you must not lose the connect with your professional development even after getting a job in HFT. Being professionally updated with the new opportunities and developments happening across the industry can help you enhance your capabilities. This will not only help you leap forward in some other firm, but also will help you contribute exceptionally well for the firm you are already working for.

Tip: Research companies, attend industry events, and connect with recruiters online to uncover hidden opportunities that can help you get a job at an HFT firm.

Want to ace the HFT job requirements checklist? It's all about showcasing your expertise in quantitative analysis, programming, and understanding market dynamics. That's the winning formula to land your spot in high-frequency trading.

Now, let us find out the pros and cons of working with an HFT firm.


Why you should work at an HFT firm

High-Frequency Trading enables you to utilise fast technology with regard to investing in profitable trade positions. But, it is not all rosy and there are some cons which should not be missed out. This comparison is important so that you can weigh the pros and cons and decide your next step accordingly.

Let us find out what is best while working at a High-Frequency Trading firm:

  • New age and successful technology: Working at a firm which offers a successful new age technology helps the employees since you remain engaged in an industry which is growing at a good pace and thus, provides you with a secure job.
  • Scope and career: Given the rapidly growing trend and demand of HFT in developing economies & emerging markets, there have been efforts by various exchanges to educate their members and develop the skill sets required for this technology-driven field. Hence, as an employee in an HFT firm, you are bound to have a bright future.
  • Growth opportunities: With an HFT firm, the growth opportunities are tremendous since the chances of promotions and bonuses are higher in an HFT firm.

HFT firms surely get great career opportunities, the right knowledge, qualifications, and skills will help you achieve goals! You can also take your skills and knowledge to the next level with this short video on Trading in Milliseconds that discusses MFT strategies and setup.


Conclusion

HFT job requirements can seem daunting, but it's all about understanding what employers are looking for. From technical skills to industry knowledge, meeting these requirements is your ticket to success in high-frequency trading. This article intended to provide you with the necessary information regarding high-frequency trading and the job aspect in an HFT firm. While working at an HFT firm is a dream of many, you can be closer to working at the same with the right knowledge, qualifications and skills.

If you are a trader, a programmer, a student or someone looking to pursue and venture into algorithmic trading then you must explore our comprehensive algo trading course. The algo trading course is a course taught by industry experts, trading practitioners and stalwarts like Dr. E. P. Chan, Dr. Euan Sinclair to name a few - is just the thing for you!

Happy learning!


Author: Chainika Thakar


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