What first attracted you to Optiver?
Optiver had a reputation ‘as a place that was difficult to get into’, but that was what I initially found attractive. I really like a challenge, and it sounded interesting so I applied. I didn’t know much about Optiver or finance at the time, but I knew that maths was highly valued here. Mathematics is the one commonality between all traders, whether it be Actuarial, Engineering or even Physics, everyone comes from a strong quantitative background. Everyone is mathematically inclined. Every single day we’re using maths in our work in some form.
What does your role entail?
Most of the day is trading. Being a market maker is about providing liquidity to the financial markets. That means we always need to show prices at which we’d buy and sell. What we’re trying to do is make sure we can accurately value the products we trade and then provide tight prices to participants in the market. We then have to manage a lot of the risk. During trading hours it’s pretty live and intense. When we’re not trading, or if it’s a really quiet day, then some of the traders will work on tools to improve the way we price.
In the morning I catch up on the news from around the world overnight. Based on the news, we consider what the market conditions will be like today and what different scenarios may play out and how that will influence our pricing. For example, if employment data is released, what will that do to the market?
In the evening is where I’ll do some analytics, reviewing good and bad trades and also complete some reporting. I usually get in 30 mins of table tennis as well which is great (laughs).
Who do you work with?
Predominately with other traders, both screen and wholesale (who work with brokers). There’s a lot of discussions, and it’s good when we agree, but if we don’t then we have to tease out where the difference of opinion lies. You can’t be right all the time, so these conversations are really valuable.
We also work closely with researchers and developers. The researchers conduct a lot of analysis for us, while we work with Developers to ensure the systems are built in the most effective way.
Your favourite part of working at Optiver?
Never thought I’d be the person to say this, but the camaraderie on the trading floor; the people around, the laughs that we share, and the good atmosphere. I never thought I’d say that because I did a PhD and sat alone in a room for 3 years working on problems and I absolutely loved that. But here it’s open and loud and very conversational. It took me a little while to adjust, but now I really enjoy that environment.
Proudest achievement so far?
Along with colleagues I’ve been able to improve the way that we price some of our instruments by quantifying the correlation with other instruments a lot more precisely. This has reduced certain risks and therefore allowed us to conduct larger trades in this space. What’s great is that I’ve been able to share this across multiple markets and contribute to our wider success.
What challenges did you face initially?
Being in my own world during my PhD, to now being in this open world with a rapid feedback culture. I’ve learnt that feedback can be highly valuable. In a lot of places, feedback is not well received, but here it’s critical to our ongoing improvement.
Any advice to potential candidates?
Be yourself. I didn’t understand trading or financial markets when I applied, but I understood maths and that worked for me. It takes a while to develop that financial knowledge. What is important is that there is a possibility that you could be interested in learning about financial markets and trading.