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What it's like working as a Quant at UBS

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James joined UBS last August directly after finishing his PhD. He joined via the firm's Graduate Training Program. After six weeks of induction training and obtaining his regulatory qualifications, James began full-time work on the electronic trading quant desk. Here’s what he had to say about his experiences: 

What were your first impressions?

Training was a great opportunity to meet graduates from all around the world and every business division. It helps you to build a professional network and removes the faceless nature of a large organisation. Training means that I now know at least one person on each desk. 

After training is complete, you join your desk and are challenged by a steep learning curve. There are lots of new people to meet, terminology to learn and systems to gain familiarity with. One of the key things at this stage is understanding the vision and goals of your team and organisation. 

Please give us a brief overview of your role

I am a Quantitative Analyst (Quant) in Electronic Trading. I am primarily responsible for writing computer programmes/computer models/algorithms that price client orders for financial instruments and manage the associated risk. My job involves a lot of computer programming, data analysis and interaction with colleagues in sales and trading. 

Our team works alongside our traders who watch over the algorithms to make sure everything is working efficiently. We also collaborate with sales people to ensure that we are providing a service that appeals to our clients. 

What is the best part of your role?

The best part of my role is the combination of working on longer term projects, whilst at the same time being proactive about dealing with day-to-day operational investigations. This means I constantly have to be alert and on top of the activities handled on our desk.

What has surprised you about working for UBS?

I am surprised by how much opportunity and encouragement there is for us to get involved in community affairs. We get an extra two days each year to get involved in volunteering. This year, I spent time hosting work experience students from an under-served school in London. 

I also participated in a careers workshop for primary school children and even helped build a running track in a park in Hackney. There is a huge list of volunteering opportunities available and you can sign up for whatever you’d like to get involved with.

What are the most important skills for your role? 

Software development and computer programming are high up on the list, as well as being able to analyse information. Most importantly, we have to be pragmatic and recognise that there are several live projects going on at any one time and so you have to be able to identify and prioritise crucial tasks. 

What does a typical day look like?

On arrival at work, the first thing I check is that our computer models are running. I also check in with colleagues on overnight activity from the US and Asia. 

Following this, I begin development of software and programming current projects. Throughout the day, I deal with queries from sales and trading colleagues. I am constantly on chat to other Quants to exchange ideas and discuss challenges.

Around mid-morning I'll get coffee with my line manager to discuss plans for the upcoming week and review progress/update on business and current projects.

At midday I grab lunch - hopefully there’s a street market on nearby. I usually go and grab lunch with other grads from other teams. After lunch is more of the same, a combination of long- term projects and tasks which arise throughout the day.

Late afternoon, I usually meet with my intern buddy. I offer support and check on her progress, deal with queries or questions that she has from their week.

A 'Junior Forum Meeting' is usually the last thing in my day. This is a regular event that links up juniors and seniors within the business.

After work, I tend to go to the gym, see friends or go rock climbing at an indoor gym. It’s really important to maintain a healthy work-life balance and I am able to do that at UBS.


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