Highre Team
Aug 7, 2018 · 5 min read
PHOTO CREDIT: UCL.AC.UK

Are you interested in asset management? But you don’t know where to start? You are reading the right blog then! Sam Shannon is an outstanding trader at a hedge fund in London. Having received his education at University College London, he comes from Particle Physics background and successfully made a transition to Computational Finance. His passion and interest in finance began when he first went to university. Aren’t you curious to know more about his life? Continue reading!

  1. Can you tell us about your academic background and how you got into capital management?

One day, during my undergraduate degree, I realized that I wasn’t going to do Physics research, while I really liked the theoretical stuff, I didn’t like the lab work. So I was looking around to see what other career options might suit me, I found finance interesting because I could use my mathematical and analytical skills in a business context.

In finance, there are many different roles with lots of different skill sets and requirements. For some roles you might need an economics background and others might require you to be good at networking. However, studying scientific subjects gave me the core analytical skills and a strong mathematical background that was specifically relevant to quantitative investing. In addition, the programming skills I got from my masters came in very handy for my role today.

2. Did anything else other than studying influence your career decision?

Before reaching my current role as a hedge fund trader, I worked at some large and small firms. I did an internship at Morgan Stanley and continued working there until I moved to my current firm. Morgan Stanley is a very large firm and with that comes certain implications:

There is a huge difference between big and small firms in a broad sense. When you are working at a big firm, it’s easy for you to get lost. At large firms such as Morgan Stanley, the division of labor is such that everyone’s job is compartmentalized, simply because there are so many employees and it is more efficient that way. You will just work on one part of the process and you will specialize into that, but you won’t get the broad sense of what’s going on. At the small ones like my current firm, my division consists of just my colleague and myself; we do everything from research to production, risk management and trade execution. I think that’s the real advantage of being at a small firm; you will have more autonomy.

3. It’s well-known that finance sector doesn’t really allow work-personal life balance in comparison to other sectors, what’s your life like?

Every firm is different, and it also depends on the workload. I frequently get looks of distaste when I explain what my hours are like, ‘How can you get up at 6:30 am and leave at 6:30 or 7 pm?’ It is long hours, but it is predictable hours and whenever you get into it, you thrive off it. On the other hand, if you work in investment banking, you might be at office until 2 to 3 am, you won’t know what to expect on that day. I think that’s a plus side of Sales & Trading versus Investment banking. You are constantly being challenged and trying to make judgement based on limited information, which I think is always interesting.

4. Can you walk us through your day-to-day at work?

I go into office at 6:30 am, and I check my email to see what has happened overnight. Usually, we will prepare all the trades we want to put on for the day between 6:30 and 8am, that’s when the market opens. We send our orders throughout day, and we see how the market is reacting and in turn, see how our portfolio is reacting. Around 10am if it’s still quite we might start preparing for the US market, which opens at 2:30 pm. And then we might be researching on our ideas, writing programs because a lot of trading and research we do are automated.

5. How do you think a student wanting to get into finance should prepare him/herself?

Finance is very competitive, especially in London. One of the best things you can have on your CV is an internship, but I am always asked: “How can I get an internship if I don’t already have an internship?”. If you have no experience, it seems like an impossible task. So how can you get around that? Try to create something of your own: it shows that you have taken initiative and that you’ve gone out and done something that demonstrates an interest. It can be starting a business, making some investments of your own, or simply keeping up with the market and writing a blog about it.

If I were to interview an undergraduate for an investment management role, what would really impress me would be if they had saved up some money (this doesn’t have to be very much and certainly not more than you can afford to lose), gone out and invested in something. Having done research on what they are investing in. Even if you don’t get it right the first time you will learn a lot and that will go a long way.

6. Do people from Arts background stand a higher chance than people from Finance background if they have a good portfolio?

There are certain requirements for a specific job role. However, there is no reason why you wouldn’t be able to work in trading, for example. I have seen people from English or History backgrounds who have successfully made the transition into the field. They can work in Sales & Trading, Investment Banking or Investment Management, in which they don’t have a strong dependency on specific quantitative skills. If you are an Arts student, but you have your way of showing the interest, you shouldn’t hold back.

It’s never enough advice coming from professionals like Sam Shannon, is it? We have a Part II coming through, stay tuned for more!!

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Highre Blog

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The Highre team working on disrupting career education

Highre Blog

Fresh career advice and resources for university talent are here!

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