Singapore hedge fund or Wall Street aspirations

donnylee's picture
Rank: Senior Chimp | 19

Hello helpful traders / quants at Wall Street Oasis,

The last few weeks has filled me with anxiety as I have to make a choice that can greatly affect the next few years of my life. I have been interning at this Singapore hedge fund (about half a billion) over the summer. On same random Tuesday, the COO and CFO pulled me into a dark room and to my pleasant surprise said, "XXX, we like you and we like to hire you."

Now, under the normal circumstances of a kid growing up in Asia, I would take this offer in a heart beat. However, because I'm a kid from Singapore who is attending a top 10 USNews school, I have aspirations of working in Wall Street New York. Listening to Jay Z's "Empire State of Mind", specifically the line "If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere." only adds to this aspiration. Hence, I'm asking for any feedback on whether I should take this offer or take a chance (yup, just a chance, no interviews yet) at Wall Street. The details follow:

Why I like this hedge fund:
1. Lovely place, both physically and socially. Definitely legit. Hours are great: 9 hour day.
2. (Important) They propose that I'll be quant trading, I foresee latest 6 months in the job. Note: I've been reading a lot of how difficult it is to get the job as a trader, especially one on the buyside. It seems pure magically that this offer has landed upon me.
3. Good alumni. Three of them are ex-GS, ex-UBS, ex-MS.
4. Learning opportunities, albeit mainly from a single trader. The quant trader guiding me along is ex-BP and ex-MS. Me and him has built a great rapport over the summer.
5. They openly say they like me and I definitely get this strong sense that we can built something together, i.e., the opportunity is right there for me to do a LOT of work and get us on the cover of some Asian Trading magazine.

Why I want to work in New York:
1. I'll be Wall Street tested. "If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere."
2. If I were to work in Wall Street, it'll probably be now. I want to get dumped there, get bullied, make mistakes, learn, pick myself up, and return to Asia a better person.
3. I can put New York on my resume.
4. I would most probably want any job that has a title of quantitative developer / trader or trader. I am not interested in operations.

1. Just a gauge of my capabilities: USNews top 10, Math and CompSci major, finish about top 85% in a few math and programming competitions, confident C++ Java multithread programmer.
2. I know myself. DE Shaw, JSC, SAC are out. I'm thinking Alliance Bernstein and Citadel.

Thank you for reading. In summery, given my desire to be a quant or quant trader, do I give up close to the ideal job in Singapore I can have out of college (I'm still quite amazed that this job is actually buyside trader) or take a chance (and only a chance) with Wall Street?

Comments (12)

Aug 18, 2011

Growing up in NYC and working there for a few years taught me this: it's not all it's cracked up to be.

Stay in SG.

Aug 18, 2011

Go for the Singapore gig. You'll have the opportunity to become part of a city that will only increase in economic importance. Plus the taxes are probably better.

Aug 18, 2011


Also, something interesting:

Aug 18, 2011

Thanks guys for the initial comments. I especially value FSC's "[New York] is not all it's cracked up to be." Indeed, sometimes when one goes through a certain experience, he'll look at it in hindsight and say that it wasn't all that great. Yet, I have yet to be in New York. And while all the bright lights, concrete jungle, financial business have only attracted me to this city, all these things could be but a image that covers an otherwise unhappy and unfulfilled life.

I love Singapore. Ske7ch, your point is noted, though I know new girls at the clubs. And I'm more than happy being part of a city and making it great. If I am the top 1% quant in the world (which I'm definitely not), I'll thrive in this rare opportunity to build up this hedge fund to be a dominating force in Asia.

However, New York is New York. And now, I can only think of the bridge lights that would make me a man of perseverance, confidence and money, unless someone can correct me otherwise.

Aug 18, 2011

First of all, congrats on getting the gig. Give yourself a huge pat on the back because it sounds like the company is a great fit.
You have a long career ahead of you. Staying in Singapore does not mean that you will never go to New York. I know of a trader from Hong Kong that tried to get a job in academia here in Canada. It turned out that he wasn't happy in that role so he quit and returned to trading in Toronto. If in 10,15 or 20 years time you decide to go to New York, you will most likely still have that option. And I'm sure more oppourtunities will be available for you because you'll have way more experience and a far stronger professional network

Aug 19, 2011

It's worth remembering, that post-Volcker, you're unlikely to be doing systematic trading in a bank in NY. As a trader with a quant background, you have two obvious paths really:

1 - systematic trading - simple/liquid products, complex strategies

2 - exotic trading - complex products, simpler strategies

(1) being typically buyside, (2) being typically sellside.

My view is that if the strategies you're learning/developing are robust to regulation (re: HFT, etc), and have a sufficient capacity for you to grow as a trader, then you are most likely best off in Singapore - rejecting a role which will directly lead you to being a risk-taker in favor of the POSSIBILITY of a job in a bank does not provide the best E(X) in my view.

My only caveat would be - make sure the hedge fund is well capitalised - i.e. that the founders have enough money to keep the lights on in the case of bad performance etc.

Aug 19, 2011

Good morning Reality,

Thanks for your valuable comments, at 5:48am in the morning no less. Agreed that all these high frequency, quantitative trading, systematic trading, essentially the kind of things I prefer to do, are found at the buyside hedge funds like you mentioned. My position will definitely be buyside at this hedge fund. What makes it interesting is that they seem to be quite liberal on what strategies I want to implement. With a 3 year ex-MS quant (PhD) sitting right beside me, I think this opportunity has a nice balance of growing and actual implementation of these systematic strategies akin to the idea of giving a trader $400,000 and seeing what he does with it.

Also agreed that taking this offer implies best E(X). In fact, I'm just glad that I even got the spot. It's just a matter of rejecting the what could have been, a shot at the SIGs, Jane Streets, Optivers, Citedals, for this more pleasant, small yet profitable hedge fund.

Being a three month intern doesn't permit me to look at their accounts. From my conclusion - ex-GS founders, half a billion, around for 11 years, hiring one or two more - they are well capitalized indeed.

Aug 19, 2011

On the buyside, learning comes above brand name - there's no reason to believe you'd be better off at any of those prop firms you mentioned, or even any of the major quant hedge funds (Citadel, DE Shaw, etc).

You mentioned the trader you're working with is ex-BP/MS - does that imply you're doing automated market making in commodity options?

Aug 19, 2011

Thank you Reality for your opinion. If that is true, and I think it is, then it's without a question that I anticipate that this hedge fund is certainly a learning environment for me - both the trading and the programming. Definitely makes me lean towards taking the offer.

Yes. I am aware that the bigger the place, less likely would attention be focused on you. Here, numerous times did the COO peeked over my shoulder to see whether I was executing a Market Buy or a Limit Buy. A new intern I may be, but I thrive in these kinds of intimate environments.

I'm not allowed to comment. All I can say is that given his 3 years of experience as a quant, he is certainly familiar with commodity options and market making, though that is not what we're doing.

Aug 19, 2011

If they're letting you execute trades as an intern, that's pretty good. This sounds like a great opportunity - grab it, and in a couple of years NY, London, HK will all be open for you... feel free to PM me if you want to ask anything else off the record. Happy to chat on Bloomberg if you have that too.

Aug 19, 2011

I am not cocky, I am confident, and when you tell me I am the best it is a compliment.
-Styles P