Should I code at a hedge fund?
May 7, 2007 1:34 PM   Subscribe

Tell me about being a junior programmer at a hedge fund.

I recently graduated with a degree in Computer Science and am looking for a job in the financial industry. I'm not happy at my current job and was recently contacted by a recruiter who thinks that, based on my academic record, I should look at hedge funds. I've interned at a large investment bank before developing backoffice apps in Java and I was quite comfortable with it. How will working at a hedge fund be different from this? What is the typical working 'culture' like? What sort of projects can I expect to work on? How about hours and pay? This is in London, UK. Thanks!
posted by jobby to Work & Money (5 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You'll make bank and work on interesting projects, what's not to like :). While not a hedge fund, I am the Chief Technical Architect at an investment bank and it's a good spot to be in. Hours are very sane (bankers hours) and you'll have all the resources you need to get the job done. The one down side is that unlike a more webcentric company, say a Google or an EBay where the engineers are the superstars at the company you will play second fiddle to the traders. Other than that you can't go wrong.
posted by zeoslap at 1:43 PM on May 7, 2007

expect hours to be reasonable and pay to be generous. In the US, a position like that would have a floor of somewhere around $100-120k, and would be making $150-250k within five years. That said, pay packages from financial firms can be hard to evaluate, because they tend to be bonus-heavy.

the culture really varies a lot from fund to fund. I've seen funds (in the US) where everybody wore jeans/t-shirts, including people who had 9 and 10 digit net worths.

I've also seen funds where everybody (right down to the junior quants) had to wear a suit and tie. Even when they were in an entirely different building than the execs and sales folks.

It's a pretty good life, all things considered. Expect the benefits to be good, the hours to be sane, and the access to additional training to be excellent.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 2:28 PM on May 7, 2007

I worked at an Alternative Investments desk at a London investment bank for a summer as a programmer. Everyone dressed very formally (though I was told this was standard for London; where I work now in the US, jeans without holes are considered dressing up), so I had on a suit and heels every day. However, my desk was made up of only about eight people who were all very good friends. There didn't seem to be much socialization outside of our department, but the AI folks hung out on weekends and went to the pub after work very frequently.

I was hired as an intern to do a lot of programming of simulators in Excel, and that's about what I did all summer. Of the 8 people in my department, I think 5 had an engineering background, and the others were still very computer-savvy. They were referred to as the "rocket scientists" since they were the highest concentration of engineers in the company. So even though they were using my Excel programs to save them time, they could easily write their own (and often did) for specific cases. I can't speak to the actual act of managing millions of dollars/pounds/currency, but it just sounded like a matter of tracking the markets obsessively and running the same calculations and predictions they used every day.

While they complained about how little they were paid, I feel that they were making a pretty good sum (and since my bank was a bit smaller than some of the big ones, maybe it was just not much for the industry, but still quite good compared to other options).

I hope this is helpful; sorry I can't speak to the actual daily life of a fund manager. But it was a great time, working there, and I hope you'll take the job! (Out of curiosity, which bank? Email's in profile if you don't mind telling me)
posted by olinerd at 2:39 PM on May 7, 2007

Wow, reasonable hours was not what I expected to read in these responses. I don't work for a hedge fund and I do have generally reasonable hours (at a large bank), but I know a great many people in similar positions that work many more hours than I do. FWIW, I consider mostly 40-hour work weeks to be reasonable, 60+ not.
Still, this is a very important question to ask at your interviews: what hours do you work? Ask enough people and you will start to discover if the days are 9-6 or more like 9-9.
The pay should be good (or get good after a couple of years). You might end up doing a lot of weekend support-type work depending on the position, be sure to ask about that.
posted by ch1x0r at 4:57 PM on May 7, 2007

I code at an IB in London. I have several friends who have recently started work at hedge funds. The work sounds interesting but the pressure can be high. I work a 'reasonable' 50ish hr week - they all work longer (sometimes much longer). The bonus situation is reputedly good and this is basically what it is all about unless you are an uber-quant dork who likes to dance with numbers for the hell of it. Hedge funds, especially the recently started variety tend to be much more relaxed about dress code and will likely be based in London's fashionable West End. If you are young and not too foolish and have the chops you should probably give it a spin - a distinct upside is that they are more 'Wild West' than your average bank so more opportunities to do fun stuff. Also more opportunities to break important stuff and lose people lots and lots of money ;-)
posted by zemblamatic at 1:25 PM on May 8, 2007

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