SERVING THE QUANTITATIVE FINANCE COMMUNITY

 
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commonweal
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Joined: November 2nd, 2005, 4:10 am

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January 19th, 2011, 5:56 am

Hi All,I recently got two offers as following and would like to hear your opinions:1, From a big bank: Front Office C++ Developer to develop Excel Add-ins across multiple business lines. The team is a cross asset team producing technological solutions to ensure smooth delivery of the quantitative models to the business. 2, From a high frequency prop shop: a quantitative developer working on equity trading applications.My background: I have a couple of years of C++ experiences in a prop firm.Considerations:1 is a big bank. I like the brand name . Also, there are chances I can learn more business knowledge and move to a more quantitative/trading role later on. However, it just sounds like a standard IT role. The interviewers are all from IT department. Moreover, I'm concerned that the tech skills used here are kind of low tech compared to a HF prop shop. I'm concerned that my programming skills will degrade after working there for a few years.2, It's very similar to what I did before. The prop shop could have more potential if the shop does well. However, it's a small shop with only around 50 people. I'm concerned about the job stability.The base salary at the two places are very similar, no idea about the expected bonus though. I'm not too sure about the job nature of the first one. For those who have extensive experiences with banks, could you please provide some insights on this "Front Office C++ Developer"?Thanks a lot!
Last edited by commonweal on January 18th, 2011, 11:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.
 
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DominicConnor
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Joined: July 14th, 2002, 3:00 am

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January 19th, 2011, 11:41 am

(1) is very probably in the IT bonus pool, but your headhunter should have already told you whether it is FO or IT, since there is a serious difference in bonus.If they say things like "it depends" or "taken into account", or the frankly dishonest "on a par with", it's an IT bonus.You're right to pick up on the fact that you weren't interviewed by anyone other than IT. Inevitably you will learn more about trading which is of course good.Although by day I am a headhunter I also teach C++ on the CQF (long story), and I cover C++ addins for Excel, and it's on the syllabus because it is useful, and seems to be taught nowhere else.At it's core, it's an interface, an unusual one, but just an interface. The meat of your work will I assume be to code what happen after the call is made, which sounds as if it will be quite varied, and may be rather interesting.That's based upon my view that most Excel C++ addins in banks are analytical routines, so you won't be doing much of the dull work humping static data etc, which soak up much of the time of many quant developers.Also, modern versions of Excel (>= 2007) support multi threading which can add to the fun. But if you're going for JPM, my understanding that they regard any piece of software written in this century with a form of superstitious fear that medieval peasants might feel if a mobile phone appeared in their mud hut and started talking to them. Some of their developers use tools that are older than they are, yes really.You seem to have sensed that your programming skills will degrade, which I have to say is not my expectation of such a role, except....Being hyper-literal about how you describe the job: "smooth delivery of the quantitative models to the business."Can mean one of two things.a) You are writing stuff the traders want, working with quants with a focus on the code aspects, and the i/o of your code goes through Excel.That's a respectable C++ QD role. The fact that it's Excel is merely a detail that actually positively affects the quality of the job because the users of your work are FO.b) They've got some huge pile of non-XLL C++ which is not yet coded to work with Excel, perhaps as part of libs that currently integrate with other C++ code. Some may even be in VBA, Java, C# etcIt's possible to write some classes that hide Excel interfacing and some sed/awk scripts to change the code, but most people seem to end up manually editing code. Inevitably that will be some of your work, but that may vary anywhere from 2% to 98%, being work that is just skilled enough that a monkey can't do it, but not skilled enough that you can maitain, let alone improve your skills.(2) seems a bit vague. To judge it I'd like to know what sort of people interviewed you, how much they drilled into your business knowledge and how much they talked about things like databases.Is the work on strategies, risk, position keeping, exchange connectivity ?In my view, the best guarantee of "stability" is what is in your head in terms of skills and experience, which usually ourtanks the stability of the firm. A thing to know about large firms is that they are unlikely to die in (say) the next three years (though that's not impossible), but they could determine that they don't need you any more. So the net extra risk of joining the prop shop as big as it might seem, but is >0My standard method for evaluating a job includes looking at what the job after that might be.The big bank adds to your value by branding, and having FO C++ developer as a job title (make sure that'is the title, not just a description) is a pretty good place to be in terms of getting another decent job.The marginal value of the branding varies a bit depending on what you've done so far in your career. So you need to ask a bit more detail about the work.I suspect you will learn more at the prop shop, and probably ean more, but like many kinds of higher returns, risk goes up as well. I can't make that call for you.
 
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commonweal
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Joined: November 2nd, 2005, 4:10 am

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January 20th, 2011, 3:38 am

QuoteOriginally posted by: DominicConnor(1) is very probably in the IT bonus pool, but your headhunter should have already told you whether it is FO or IT, since there is a serious difference in bonus.If they say things like "it depends" or "taken into account", or the frankly dishonest "on a par with", it's an IT bonus.I did not ask and they did not mention. I guess it's IT bonus.QuoteYou seem to have sensed that your programming skills will degrade, which I have to say is not my expectation of such a role, except....Being hyper-literal about how you describe the job: "smooth delivery of the quantitative models to the business."Can mean one of two things.a) You are writing stuff the traders want, working with quants with a focus on the code aspects, and the i/o of your code goes through Excel.That's a respectable C++ QD role. The fact that it's Excel is merely a detail that actually positively affects the quality of the job because the users of your work are FO.b) They've got some huge pile of non-XLL C++ which is not yet coded to work with Excel, perhaps as part of libs that currently integrate with other C++ code. Some may even be in VBA, Java, C# etcIt's possible to write some classes that hide Excel interfacing and some sed/awk scripts to change the code, but most people seem to end up manually editing code. Inevitably that will be some of your work, but that may vary anywhere from 2% to 98%, being work that is just skilled enough that a monkey can't do it, but not skilled enough that you can maitain, let alone improve your skills.Hopefully it's a), since the JD mentions the main duty is C++ programming and require a numerical skill up to a degree level.Quote(2) seems a bit vague. To judge it I'd like to know what sort of people interviewed you, how much they drilled into your business knowledge and how much they talked about things like databases. Is the work on strategies, risk, position keeping, exchange connectivity ?No database questions and the work is on strategies. But still, it's gonna be pretty much all C++ programming, no much business.QuoteIn my view, the best guarantee of "stability" is what is in your head in terms of skills and experience, which usually ourtanks the stability of the firmI like this statement.QuoteMy standard method for evaluating a job includes looking at what the job after that might be.I like this too.QuoteThe big bank adds to your value by branding, and having FO C++ developer as a job title (make sure that'is the title, not just a description) is a pretty good place to be in terms of getting another decent job. The marginal value of the branding varies a bit depending on what you've done so far in your career. So you need to ask a bit more detail about the work. Unfortunately, the title has no "FO" in it. And the add-ins are supposed to be used by thousands of users(I also need to support them). I doubt all of those will be from FO.
 
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endian675
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Joined: March 11th, 2008, 7:09 pm

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January 20th, 2011, 9:09 am

If this Excel product is called "EORE" and the company name rhymes with "Crapital" then run away, very very fast.
 
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DominicConnor
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Joined: July 14th, 2002, 3:00 am

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January 20th, 2011, 3:45 pm

endian has a valid point, when that particular firm explained to me the nature of their C++ interface to Excel it took some effort for me to believe that they weren't trying to make some sort of joke.That being said, you are clearly being offered by a pretty large outfit, and I agree with your analysis that the users will be spread from front to back office. I am a little confused by the statement No database questions and the work is on strategies. But still, it's gonna be pretty much all C++ programming, no much business."Coding up strategies is pretty much what many people call the business. Specialised business of course, but pretty valuable stuff. That makes it an interestingly hard decision.
 
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commonweal
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Joined: November 2nd, 2005, 4:10 am

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January 21st, 2011, 2:18 am

QuoteOriginally posted by: DominicConnorendian has a valid point, when that particular firm explained to me the nature of their C++ interface to Excel it took some effort for me to believe that they weren't trying to make some sort of joke.That being said, you are clearly being offered by a pretty large outfit, and I agree with your analysis that the users will be spread from front to back office. I am a little confused by the statement No database questions and the work is on strategies. But still, it's gonna be pretty much all C++ programming, no much business."Coding up strategies is pretty much what many people call the business. Specialised business of course, but pretty valuable stuff. That makes it an interestingly hard decision.Well, that was a little bit confusing. But the HF shop is very technology focused. They make profit on speed. Even strategies do not have much business in it.
 
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mrmister
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Joined: August 15th, 2009, 4:33 pm

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January 21st, 2011, 3:02 am

Go to the prop shop.
Last edited by mrmister on January 20th, 2011, 11:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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