How hard is it really for non target, non white, older male to get a seat in trading?

Background: I am currently a quant at a BB working under SnT dep and I'm trying to get a seat in actual trading. I have some years of enlisted military experience under my belt and it took me years/luck/effort to become a quant as I am now. I used to be a straight A student and got 5 on all my AP calc classes in junior year while playing contact sports in HS and I was living by myself and had to move from house to house almost every single year. My family could not support me financially for college therefore I enlisted. Leaving academics for military then back to the old route(undergrad+master) really takes a toll on me, I am now in my early 30s.

I have been preparing/interviewing for almost a year now trying to switch to trader(buyside and sellside) and found it to be extremely difficult. I always thought my quant backgroud(or maybe military backgound? it can be a disadvantage) would be an edge for me among other candidates, but my experience in recruiting tells me otherwise. For buyside prop firms, I would get most of my technical right but get rejected after superday for the reason of "not considered to be a good fit", or the interviewer will ask me a very practical trading question(stuff that you only learn from the job) which I have zero exposure to for a junior trader role and expect me to answer it perfectly, or in a even worse case, the interviewer asks me what my parents do for living, how did they come to this country and get rejected after this behavior round. Sellside BBs simply ignore my application and I cant even get an interview with them.

But on the forum some of you guys make it look like a walk in the park to get a seat in trading, and I notice that younger guys(mostly white male) with almost zero market knowledge and not stem would get BB SnT offers easily(even from non target) This makes me to question myself if there really is a age/race/school preference in the trading business. Should I keep pursing in this direction?

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Comments (11)

Most Helpful
Jul 13, 2022 - 11:54pm
oil_quant, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I think you are focused on the wrong issues.  Probably not race or gender or social background.  But more likely transitioning abruptly which is exacerbated by the age issue.

I feel bad for you if you have gotten questions about your parents' job situation, but this seems extremely rare and I would not generalize that that's a key reason you are being turned town.  Being rejected for fit could simply be- this person is smart- but they know things that aren't what I'm looking for.

And I think that's your problem.  Transitioning is easier if there is some kind of bridge.  This could be a person who can make an introduction, working at a firm and being referred within the firm, going through a credible recruiter.  Why not network within your own bank?  Or work on a project with someone and get closer to their desk?  Or meet some people at conferences?  Going with web applications is going to be tough because people have a bias for people who are cheap/fresh out of school for entry level jobs, and relevant experience for experienced hires.  If you are neither, it's not easy.  
 

  • Associate 1 in S&T - Other
Jul 14, 2022 - 12:24am

Trust me, I have used pretty much all my resources from contacting alumni, coldmailing strangers and using veteran network to get interviews. I even have a veteran officer mentor (Caucasian) who is also a trader to help me on the interpersonal skills for interviews and to connect ppl in SnT for me. He got me connected with one of the sales guys from top BB and the guy told me hes got a soft spot for veteran and never replied any of my emails after the introduction call. It's just very hard to connect with ppl when you are not a very valuable asset to them. I tried to connect within the firm as well, I simply wont have the chance to directly work with traders for any project given the position I am in, and to build network really takes time. If I stay in my current role any longer, my CV will become less likely to even pass resume screening 

My goal is to become a trader on the prop side, and by the look of their hiring preferences, having 1 year of non trading work experience is the maximum tolerance they have for junior trader hiring , they would rather hire fresh grads for in shop training or hire experienced trader for experienced spots. 

  • Associate 1 in S&T - Other
Jul 14, 2022 - 12:46am

and when you say "probably not something they are looking for", it reverts back to my original question. If they know I can do the job given that I passed all their technical rounds(probability, coding, brainteasers), are they looking for something more character oriented? Is it about how a typical young trader would look/talk? One thing for sure, having an older veteran trader on the team is def not the norm for most of trading firms, and I guess it will look like a huge gamble(risk) they take to hire me over some fresh grad student with little to none work experience. 

Jul 14, 2022 - 8:13am
oil_quant, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Keep doing what you are doing- nothing is easy.  I wouldn't worry about personality fit.  You can't really control that anyways.  If you are finding it hard to make the whole jump, why not make half the jump and work in the quant group at those places?  There are also lots of funds where people start out doing the research as analysts (and stats/programming is obviously helpful there) and then move on to become a pm.  For me, I don't trade, but using some of the skills that you have plus an understanding of a domain area, moving into trading has been open where I am and recruiters have frequently brought up roles for the analysis-pm route as well.  (Not really interested in making the switch myself). Why not move into something adjacent where you can come up with trade ideas or cover a sector?  Just make sure that what you are jumping into is revenue generating.  Good luck!  

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Jul 16, 2022 - 7:19pm
Dawg-nuts, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Firstly, to open some ideas to you and for you to manage your own expectations. For a given head count (in banks), there might be internal policies that juniors are deemed as free head count but are limited to grads only; and experienced head count would mostly go to external hires with direct relevant experience, as there might be immediate pnl implications. I have seen quants hired into trading desk as they worked together before, and I have seen experienced head counts considering people internally from sales/research etc, but they tends not to work out well, because quite simply, in my opinion, those people are just not prepared other than the fact that they THINK they wants to do trading, it's a quite hard sell with out good reasons to back up for them. For both junior and experienced head counts on the buy side (prop trading firm or hedge funds), quant background and reasons for wanting to change job because you are looking for trading roles is actually sufficient, but you still need to demonstrate value add and product knowledge.

So linked closely to my second point, I think you should be more tactical about specific trading desks targeting. An middle office analyst can be given a chance in trading because he is familiar with the admin… If your quant experiences are more oriented to modelling of pricers etc, you are much more suited for exotics/securitised products (profitable, innovative, big franchise flow driven, suitable for academic personalities); if more oriented towards regulation modelling, then perhaps XVA/repo trading type of desk (always in need, slower pace, consistent revenue, feels admin but give you plenty of time to pick up knowledge); or more oriented towards strategies modelling, then this opens up a lot more from options, to delta one, to e-trading, to quant trading etc (in which case, I would recommend you to dig in very deep into a specific product of your interests and apply around for that, i.e. FX/equity options). I cannot emphasise enough that if you want to move into trading, make sure you read a good product primer/book inside out at least twice, so you fully understand the concept.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that certain products also requires certain personality. If by nature you are more academic and enjoy quant type of work, perhaps avoid desks such as credit or fx spot trading, which are better suited for people good with relationships and execution in the latter. With regards to your slight worry over your age/ethnicity, normally a good desk head do have to consider cultural fit with the team, and your application might be dinged (happens to others as well for simple reasons such as the desk is looking for a female trader…), someone else made a good point that this is something you can't change, but shouldn't stop you from trying; however, my personal opinion goes back to the fact that, if you really knows a product inside out even before you join a trading desk, and if you can fluently articulate practical knowledge and ideas across during interviews, your interviewers will be a lot more intrigued in you as a candidate, any fit concerns are almost tangent to the decision. I am aware of non-white/early 30s candidate given offers on the spot with out even considering other candidates because of the difference a good preparations make.

Good luck and keep hustling

Jul 28, 2022 - 4:50pm
WinnerWinner, what's your opinion? Comment below:

First of all, if a trading seat is what you want, don't stop. It's definitely not a walk in the park but the hardest part of getting into trading is that first role. Once you have trader on your resume, future roles will be easier to get so don't be discouraged and keep applying.

If you want to get experience trading, then trade. Even if its just $100 of SPY in a personal account that will get you some experience watching the market, order books, etc and you may be able to answer the questions, or at least have a better guess, that you are struggling with right now in the interviews.

Is location an issue? I noticed the post says Italy, if you are overseas looking for stuff in the US, some places may say its not worth the cost of moving you.

Aug 7, 2022 - 2:11pm
Fillycheesesteaks, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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