Quants working in hedge fund jobs are very well paid. A salary survey this summer from recruitment firm Selby Jennings said that junior quant researchers in U.S. hedge funds can up to $500k, that mid-ranking quant researchers can earn up to $750k, and the most senior ones can get a cut of the profits they help generate.
While this may sound sufficient to obscure all kinds of dissatisfaction at work, apparently it is not. Hedge fund quants, like everyone else, are looking for meaning. And Bloomberg says they are finding it in….self-driving cars.
“In finance, excelling at your job means making more money for your investors. In autonomous vehicles, excelling at your job means you might save lives,” reflects a 26-year-old model engineer now working for a California self-driving technology start-up, who previously spent three years in systematic FX trading at Citadel Securities.
Autonomous vehicle start-ups pay less money than hedge funds and electronic market makers, but they fly the flag of human advancement and offer more interesting work. So says Dan Franco, a headhunter who’s been plucking people from quant finance and placing them into jobs in the mobility sector. “I think you’d rather earn $400k and be happily fulfilled than earn $500k and be bored,” Franco told Bloomberg. “A lot of these guys are actually more motivated by the technical challenges rather than money anyway.”
Quants working in finance might disagree that their work is boring. – The sector prides itself on its “large datasets” and challenging feedback loops. Equally, driverless vehicles may not be quite as meaningful as headhunters in the sector like to make out, and indeed it seems some hedge fund quants are simply working on autonomous vehicles to sit out their non-compete periods.
Nonetheless, finance quants who feel an urge to facilitate a future in which people can watch Netflix instead of watching the road, are able to do so. And it’s not just quants – James Westwood, a newly promoted Goldman Sachs MD previously in charge of hedge fund sales for Hong Kong and Singapore, resigned in 2018 and joined Ascent Robotics, an artificial intelligence company creating self-driving vehicles. He’s still there over three years later.
Sarah Butcher – Read more on efinancialcareers.com