Books I have read: The Quants

The QuantsHaving worked in The City doing recruitment of financial traders, and specifically quantitative traders I was interested to read Scott Patterson’s take on quant trading.

Patterson traces the history of quant trading by starting with Ed Thorp, the maths professor who applied his theories in the gambling world. Having successfully taken on the Las Vegas tables he then took his models into the financial trading sphere in the 1950s.

He goes on to trace the development of quantitative trading from blackjack to black swans. Patterson is able to simply explain the complex ideas underpinning our financial system through an extraordinary and insightful story.

The second half of the book focuses on the crisis of 2007-2008 where a number of quant hedge funds and groups in investment banks almost collapsed. It highlights the issues of greed and conceit amongst the financial trading institutions – a character-rich tale of how brilliant mathematicians and technologists ignored the human element of trading.

It is definitely worth reading this book for an in-depth analysis of one of the points in recent financial history where things started to go awry – leading to the situation we find ourselves in 2015.

Youth Ministry – the most meaningful job in the world

Forbes tells us what we all already knew – youth ministry is the best job in the world!  Check out this snippet:

It’s been said that money can’t buy you happiness. It turns out it has similarly little affect on whether an employee feels their work makes a positive change in the world.
Each year, Forbes reports on PayScale‘s list of the most meaningful jobs that also pay well. But when the caveat of income is removed, medical professionals, criminal justice workers, and youth ministers still find their way to the top of the list, while some highly-paid jobs are found to provide little meaning to those that hold them.
Youth minister, the third party in this tie for first, pays the least by far–an annual median $35,000–but 100% of respondents still find strong meaning in the role.

Vacancy: Boys’ Brigade Development Worker

The Boys Brigade


Following the growth of The Boys’ Brigade (BB) within African & Caribbean Churches and their communities the BB is seeking to appoint an innovative  Development Worker to help us to continue to grow and strengthen our Youth and Children’s Work within these communities.

Job focus:

  • Strengthening relationships with churches and communities from local to national (UK) level.
  • Working alongside our team of development workers as they support recently established groups within these communities.
  • Research and develop new youth and children’s work within agreed areas of England to widen access to BB programmes and activities

This is a full time position (35 hours per week) on an 18 month fixed term contract. Flexibility to work some evenings and weekends is a requirement for the role. The starting salary will be £23,517

If you have a background in Youth and Children’s work and the confidence and influencing skills to help us achieve our plans and vision, then we would be pleased to hear from you.

The successful applicant will have experience and knowledge of the African & Caribbean communities and will be in sympathy with the Christian ethos of the organisation.

Closing date for applications – 8th September 2014

Recruitment packs can be downloaded from our website:

  or by e mail to Graham Weston

LG Scares Job Applicants Into Thinking the World Is Ending

It’s nerve-racking enough to go into a job interview, but LG gave applicants a real reason to worry.

In a video released on YouTube, LG swaps out a window in an office with one of its televisions showing the city in the background. Job applicants then come into the room to interview for a position only to see the city go up in flames. LG captures their reactions as they freak out and then learn it’s a prank:

[youtube id=”ynvKWYvyCqw” width=”580″ height=”337″]

The video, which was posted to the YouTube page for LG Chile, is the latest in a series of pranks from the brand and has already been viewed more than 10 million times. As with the previous videos, viewers will likely have doubts about whether the “applicants” in this video are real or paid actors.

LG has found viral success with this series. The first video, which you can watch below, allegedly tricked people into thinking the floor of the elevator had fallen out. That video has been viewed nearly 20 million times since it was published last year. A followup video set in a men’s bathroom has been viewed more than 5 million times since April.

[youtube id=”NeXMxuNNlE8″ width=”580″ height=”337″]

Do You Have What It Takes to Be the New Siri?


Siri is not a woman who lives inside your phone but a computer programme organising your life.

Siri is now in need of some new writers to put together jokes, witty banter, and other various bits of human-sounding things for Siri to say.  Apple posted the job on LinkedIn, so get your résumé together.  They clearly need some sort of a new writer, because if they really think “Siri’s known for ‘her’ wit, cultural knowledge, and zeal to explain things in engaging, funny, and practical ways,” then they’re more out of touch than anyone guessed …

How not be on call 24 hours a day

I was interested to read an article by Forbes on Are You The Perfect Always-On Employee? No Problem. Here’s How To Fake It.

I thought some of the tips in the article were useful, many of us are expected to be available at any time, even during our time off.  The article in Forbes suggested some ways to fake that you were available and/or interested without being constantly attached to your device.  My favourite suggestion was to put an emphasis on people ringing you out of hours if they need to make contact with you, which really makes them think twice before trying to get hold of you:

I particularly like the approach espoused by Claire Robinson, our editorial operations manager. If someone tries to engage her by email after hours, she ups the ante and puts the onus on the other party. “I put my mobile number in my e-mail signature and emphasize it in my away message,” she says. “If it’s that important, call me. Most of the time, people will not abuse this. I of course check mail periodically during off-hours, but your brain needs a break. I’d rather be interrupted by a call alerting me to something truly important than checking mail constantly just in case.”

But in my experience I felt that the tips didn’t go far enough.  Having worked in ministry for 8 years and spent 6 months working as a Recruiter in the City of London there are very few people who aren’t okay with you not checking email on your mobile phone etc., when you’re out of work.

As soon as we start to respond to messages late at night or on our day off people think that it is okay to message us and raise their expectations of us.  The reverse is true, if they know you will answer the phone if it is incredibly urgent and important but the rest of the time you’re with your family and friends, they don’t send as many messages themselves, which in turn lowers the strain on yourself.

In the secular world it is much more common for your workplace to have a policy and to provide you with a work device which can, at times, be turned off.  In the faith sector, often employers don’t provide that device, so whilst it can be useful to get messages as you’re out and about during the day moving from school to youth group to meetings I’d really encourage people to think carefully before putting their work email on their mobile device.

How do you ensure you’re not on call 24 hours a day?

What to do when HR goes quiet during an interview process

An interview process is all about a romance between the candidate and the interviewer(s) – the goal is to create a succesful long-term relationship.  You don’t want to come across to needy or desperate, but at the same time you still need to look enthusiastic and keen.

There are inevitable occasions, especially in tepid hiring markets like now, when firms you are interviewing with go silent.  Most worryingly is when a manager who has, up until this point, been very responsive, suddenly clams up.  So how long is too long to wait before following up?

Here are three top tips on how to call it right when the phone stops ringing:

1. Judge how keen they are to hire 

Sometimes HR and interviewers are just busy, sometimes the role itself has been put on hold (but typically, none of the candidates have been told!), and sometimes it’s just the candidate themselves who is being ignored and pushed to the bottom of the list.  You will have to exercise judgement to decide which of these scenarios applies to you.

2.  Is the HR department up to scratch?

Large firms are particularly bad culprits at this as they tend to rely more on their HR divisions than smaller ones, where managers might themselves be co-ordinating the interview process.  The more HR employees a firm has, the more likely you are to get lost in the machine somewhere.

3. Keep an eye on the news 

Make sure you’re aware of current “big picture” issues facing your prospective employer, as they might explain the lack of contact.  You’ll look foolish if you telephone, for example, a hedge fund manager to find that his team has been absorbed into a bigger group, and therefore is struggling to retain their existing headcount, let alone recruiting more people.

In job hunting as in life generally, patience and discretion are key. Don’t push it. You don’t want to seem desperate.

The key skills for financial technologists

Working as a financial technologist has never been so tough – not only do you need excellent programming skills in a wide range of languages such as C/C++, C#, and Java, but this has to be combined with knowledge about particular asset classes or financial sector domains.  In addition for anyone beyond a junior role it is now essential that you’re business savvy.

The most ‘critical’ skill needed to work with in IT within the banking and securities industry is the ability to ‘align business and technology goals’, according to a new survey by Information Week and Bank Systems and Technology.  This is followed by ‘integrating enterprise applications’ and ‘collaborating with internal stakeholders’.  As the table below shows, developing applications comes pretty far down the list of skills.

Lower down the ranks it’s rare that a bank will recruit at technologist without an understanding of how IT will fit into business needs, but at the senior end it’s moving the other way.  Banks want to recruit people at executive director and above who have an understanding of the operational issues, can manage outsourcing projects and think strategically about technology, but they also need a technical background.  They don’t just want managers any more – most senior recruits have a background in development or engineering and need to understand the technical requirements of the systems their teams are developing.

James Caan joins the Institute of Recruiters (IoR)

I received an email from the Institute of Recruiters announcing how James Caan has joined their expert panel, here’s the press release:

Leading recruitment expert heads the IORs expert panel to help UK recruiters boost revenues.

James Caan, one of the UK’s most successful and dynamic recruitment entrepreneurs and chair of the body overseeing the allocation of the £82.5 million government Start-Up Loan scheme, has joined Britain’s fastest-growing recruitment membership body, The Institute of Recruiters (IOR).

Caan will offer recruiters unparalleled support by personally answering their questions as head of the IOR’s new online ‘Ask the Expert’ service. This panel will comprise of seven other members that will provide recruiters with specialist advice on subjects including how to build your recruitment business, social media in recruitment, employment law – including AWR to how to be a top biller and best practice working with in-house teams.

James Caan said: “A British Institute whose heartbeat is high quality professional development for British recruiters is an organisation we should all support.  Britain is competing in a global marketplace and I wholeheartedly endorse the IOR’s aim of making Britain the global centre of excellence for recruitment.”

Azmat Mohammed, Director General at the IOR, added: “As a leading organisation in British recruitment, the IOR needs to ensure every service it launches is of the highest possible standard.  Any ‘Ask the Expert’ service is only as good as the quality of its participating experts and the ease of access that exists to this knowledge.  The IOR has worked hard to assemble a high-calibre panel, led by James Caan, to ensure members are given the best support to succeed in this very difficult economic climate.”

The panel consists of:

  • James Caan
  • Wayne Searle – Head of organisational development and talent acquisition at Cable & Wireless Worldwide
  • Lindsey Bell – partner at top-ranked national law firm Clarke Willmott LLP and accredited mediator
  • Jorgen Sundberg – social media trainer and consultant specialising in LinkedIn
  • Anne Carrigan – head of resourcing at Nationwide Building Society
  • Kate Headley – inclusive recruitment practice expert at The Clear Company
  • Mark Gittus – resourcing relationship manager at E.ON.

The panel has significant recruiting and staffing expertise and are accomplished individuals in their own careers.

In addition to heading up the ‘Ask the Expert’ panel, James Caan will also speak at IOR events and offer his support to ensure the organisation is delivering high-quality assistance to its rapidly-growing membership.

The ‘Ask the Expert’ service can be accessed here:

10 Job Interview Tips

Great interview tips from a headhunter on ten of the most common interview questions:

  1. Why don’t you tell me about yourself?: This question, often the interview opener, has a crucial objective: to see how you handle yourself in unstructured situations. The recruiter wants to see how articulate you are, how confident you are, and generally what type of impression you would make on the people with whom you come into contact on the job. The recruiter also wants to learn about the trajectory of your career and to get a sense of what you think is important and what has caused you to perform well.  The right response is twofold: focus on what interests the interviewer, and highlight your most important accomplishments.  Stories are powerful and are what people remember most.
  2. How long have you been with your current (or former) employer?
  3. What is your greatest weakness?: An impressive and confident response shows that the candidate has prepared for the question, has done serious self-reflection, and can admit responsibility and accept constructive criticism. Sincerely give an honest answer (but not a long one), be confident in the fact that this weakness does not make you any less of a great candidate, and show that you are working on this weakness and tell the recruiter how.
  4. Tell me about a situation where you did not get along with a superior.
  5. Describe a situation where you were part of a failed project: If you can’t discuss a failure or mistake, the recruiter might conclude that you don’t possess the depth of experience necessary to do the job. The recruiter is not looking for perfection. He or she is trying better to understand your level of responsibility, your decision-making process, and your ability to recover from a mistake, as well as what you learned from the experience and if you can take responsibility for your mistakes.  Respond that you’d like to think that you have learned something valuable from every mistake you have made. Then have a brief story ready with a specific illustration.
  6. What are your strengths?: Describe two or three skills you have that are relevant to the job. Avoid clichés or generalities; offer specific evidence. Describe new ways these skills could be put to use in the position you are being considered for.
  7. How do you explain your job success?: Be candid without sounding arrogant. Mention observations other people have made about your work strengths or talents.
  8. What do you do when you are not working?
  9. Why did you leave your last position?
  10. Why do you want to work in this industry?

Where to study as a quantitative finance developer in the United States

I wrote recently about a survey on Where to study quantitative finance in the United States, recently Wall Street & Technology polled executives working in capital markets functions on their favoured universities to recruit IT talent from.  The list is doubly interesting because of its candour – most recruiters in financial services publicly profess a lack of preference to any particular schools or degrees when hiring graduates.

In no particular order, here are the five preferred schools:

  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
  • Stanford University
  • Georgia Institute of Technology

Other universities that were highlighted included: Brown University, Rice University, Stevens Institute of Technology, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, University of Pennsylvania and Yale University.

In the UK, it’s increasingly common for universities to tap into banks’ desire to have new recruits equipped with both technical and financial services know-how, so for example UCL’s MSc in Financial Computing is supported by Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley, whilst Warwick Business School’s MSc in Finance & IT was coined by Mark Taylor, an ex-MD at BlackRock.

Technically C++, Java and .Net are still the most commonly sought after skills, but any decent technologist needs to come with additional skills.  Respondents to WS&T spoke of “communication skills”, “influence management” and even the ability to be “humble”.