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A day in the life of an Optiverian

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Adrian Dudek

Role Options Trader

Joined Optiver 2016

Degree Bachelor of Science (Mathematics) | PhD in Mathematics

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 discussion, 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 the possibility that you could be interested in learning about financial markets and trading.

Suganya Suresh

Role Software Developer

Joined Optiver 2014

Degree Bachelors of Science (Mathematics) | Masters of Computer Science

What first attracted you to Optiver?

I had an idea I’d like to do something quantitative or pricing related. I soon realised I’d need computing knowledge if I was to solve the types of problems that really interested me. I joined Optiver about half way through my Computer Science degree. The problems that Optiver was trying to solve attracted me, and it seemed like an interesting place to work.

What does your role entail?

I work in our Korean market team. I spend my morning with the Traders, talking about what has been happening, ensuring the trading platform is running smoothly.

As I’ve become more senior I’ve take on larger pieces of development work, some deployment, analysis and evaluation, code reviews for colleagues, discussing new projects on the horizon. It depends where we are in the development cycle. The majority of my work is in C++, because it’s so effective from a latency perspective, and a little in Python for some of the data work.

What skills are important in your role?

At a Graduate level here, the level of ownership is huge. There’s a focus on doing great development work and delivering something on time that solves a real business problem that we’re facing. What makes them so interesting is the business context. It’s definitely a plus to be interested in the domain. Not everyone will have that when they first join, but being curious to learn will definitely help.

Solid development skills are critical and it’s important that you enjoy being challenged. Knowing data structures, understanding the value of different languages and how they impact performance. We might be a little less technical than a pure technology company, as our challenge is more about understanding the needs of our traders and developing the right solutions.

Who do you work with?

This is one of the areas we differ to many technology companies. Because of the large volume of components in our system we work in small units, and most applications will have only 2-3 Developers working on them. My main stakeholders are the traders. I work very closely with them which is nice because we can deeply understand the problem they’re trying to solve and we can get quick feedback on our ideas.

Biggest problem you’ve solved so far?

I’ve enjoyed a lot of the projects I’ve worked on. Last year we were upgrading our auto traders, and I was responsible for rewriting the code in our trading strategies. There were many intricacies to consider in how we wanted it to behave, and how we would get the most value out of it. Considering if it was going to be fast enough or accurate enough; that was really fun.

Favourite part of working at Optiver?

It’s not just about here’s a problem, solve it and then it’s done forever. It’s more like here’s a possible solution, and how can we make it even better. What are the potential upsides and downsides to alternative ideas. We’re really about continuous improvement and lots of iteration. After you’ve made an improvement it’s nice to be able to point to the results and know you were responsible.

I also like the people. It’s a friendly place to work, and I’ve learnt a lot from my colleagues.

What challenges did you face initially?

When I first started, I worked more autonomously than you would in other places. It is a lot of responsibility for someone just starting out, and it is quite a challenge. We didn’t have a formal graduate program then, so that made it tougher to integrate into the company. Things have improved now; we have a buddy program and a Head of Technology Education who oversees the Graduates and manages their experience in the first 12 months.

Any advice to potential candidates?

Optiver is a great place if you enjoy a challenge, working autonomously and you are really keen to learn. You may not know much about finance, but if you’re curious about the industry it is a pretty great place to work. In terms of interviewing, try and be relaxed so we can see the real you. No one is looking for perfection.

Jeff Lai

Role System Reliability Engineer (SRE)

Joined Optiver 2016

Degree Bachelors of Electrical Engineering | Masters of Network Engineering

What first attracted you to Optiver?

I was referred by a friend whose description of Optiver’s technology environment really attracted me. Having a large environment with logical components connecting one another, where each block and connection is something you can optimise or improve – I found that extremely interesting. System reliability isn’t really something you can study, so I didn’t know too much about the operational side of things before I started. Fortunately you can learn that quickly on the job and through training.

What does your role entail?

I’m part of the team responsible for business control and support systems – essentially the things that keep us operating safely. We need to ensure we’re capable of handling a variety of potential scenarios without any major risk to the company. This involves design work, some scripting that keeps our systems communicating with each other, and a variety of incident management. For example, working on a script to handle our compliance reporting to external regulators, which requires solid scripting skills and linking internal and external requirements.

In addition to system reliability, we as SRE’s also strive to optimise for speed and efficiency.

Who do you work with?

I work predominately with our Middle Office and Risk teams whilst our other Reliability Engineers work closely with the Traders. Other than that, we all work closely with the Developers that produce the large variety of applications used throughout the business. This collaboration is important to ensure that new applications and updates will fit well within the existing operations. By working with a variety of teams across the business we develop a holistic picture that allows us to identify areas for improvement that a more specialised team might not see.

What skills do you utilise in your role?

We use a wide variety of technical skills, but the most common skills I draw on are flexibility and the ability to quickly adapt to new environments. You need to be able to see a system and quickly determine how it works and which components are the most critical. Without that, it won’t matter how strong you are at any particular technical capability. On the operational side of things, strong communication skills – both listening and articulating our thoughts – are really valuable. Putting that adaptability together with clear communication is what allows us to successfully manage system related incidents.

Favourite part of working at Optiver?

I really appreciate the informal environment, the fact I can wear whatever I feel comfortable in. We even have Optiver flip flops! It’s a great indication of our culture and the easy going people that work here. I know I can just come into work and not have to be a different person. I can be who I am and that’s really valuable.

What challenges did you face initially?

Optiver is a trading company, and I came in with no financial background or understanding of how trading systems work. The initial front load of information was quite intense. I had a 12 week training plan where I had to learn and understand a range of new information and terminology. I was also given a project to work on within the first month also. The volume of content was way more than anything I had experienced at university.

Any advice for potential candidates?

We don’t expect Graduates or Interns to know everything when they join. It’s important to be comfortable not knowing something, but also having a clear idea for how you’d acquire the relevant information when the time comes.

Sam Jiang

Role Researcher

Joined Optiver 2014

Degree Bachelor of Electrical Engineering and Mathematics | Grad Diploma in Statistics

What first attracted you to Optiver?

I heard about Optiver through my friends. I knew a few smart people who worked here, and the fact that I’d be surrounded by intelligent colleagues really attracted me.

What does your job entail?

My main role is to utilise data to improve our trading systems. This can come in the form of fixing issues or optimising the current system. My work is quite varied, and priorities often depend on how our systems are operating. The vast amount of data we capture helps us to identify the areas with the largest potential for improvement. Data also supports us to define the best strategies for improvement, as well as analyse the effectiveness of our changes.

We have a wide variety of researchers – where I work on the systems, others work on modelling and developing our trading strategies.

Key skills you use?

You need to be able to identify what is the best approach for each scenario, and which data will be most useful. If the data does not exist, talk to the relevant people and see if we can collect it. Once you have the data, the next step is to filter and improve data quality – this is where our programming ability (mostly Python) can really help.

Who do you work with?

I work with traders to define the relevant indicators of our trading platform’s performance and how we want the system improved. We discuss a lot of ideas, and I then work with Developers to get those improvements implemented. Once the updates are made, we all review the results to determine what change we should make next.

Your proudest achievement?

I ran a project to improve our systems’ efficiency at providing prices and volumes to the market. We’d always had high quality data from the exchange, but we’d never been able to utilise it fully. I had an idea in my mind, and then I worked closely with one of our Intern Software Developers to set up the specifications and provide direction. We worked on that project for a month and the outcome has been great. One year on that improvement continues to give us greater insight into our trades, as well as identifying areas for future improvements.

Favourite part of working at Optiver?

Definitely the working environment. Regardless of who I work with, or how long I’ve been here, my work is always appreciated.

What challenges did you face initially?

My lack of financial background. I had literally zero finance knowledge. When I started, ‘Researcher’ was quite a new job and there weren’t many senior people to guide your learning. Now we have a much larger team and better education structure in place to get people up to speed quickly.

Advice to potential applicants?

We care about you being a cultural fit as much as we care about your talent. Most people try to emphasise their talent, which we definitely need but, we also really care about how well you fit in our environment. We value team players, people who are enjoyable to work with. So make sure you demonstrate your talent as well as what kind of person you are.

Steph Yap Abidin

Role: Risk Manager

Joined Optiver: 2013

Degree: Bachelor of Actuarial Studies and Applied Finance

What attracted you to Optiver?

Optiver is famous on campus, particularly for their maths test. I was not that interested in doing a maths test during my break between lectures, but we were at a Career Fair and I went up to the booth because I wanted the free T- shirt (laughs). All my friends were doing the maths test while I chatted to one of the staff. I was sold on the free breakfast and lunch and annual trip for employees. It seemed like a cool company and I also knew they were hiring really smart people. It seemed like a company that looked after its employees and hired exceptional talent. From there, I did some research, found out more about the company and applied for a role.

What does your role entail?

There is a risk to every business decision you make. As a risk manager, we evaluate possible scenarios and the risks, develop frameworks and put systems in place to minimise their impact. We’re like a safety net. I started with 4 to 5 weeks of training, learning a whole bunch of theory, and then I was straight into my role. You’re learning how to monitor everything, and understand the trading activities so you can see where things need to be improved. The good thing about Optiver is that you are given a lot of autonomy from an early stage.

Now that I’m more senior, I get more opportunity to define the direction of projects I’m working on. Some members of the team focus on market risk, while I’m more focused on pre-trade risk which is related to our algorithmic trading strategies.

Key skills you use?

Analytical thinking, problem solving and communication. You are collaborating with traders and developers and when it comes to projects, you have to be able to get everyone on the same page. Being able to technically work through a problem, find a solution and then communicate that to everyone is very important. Optiver is fast paced, things move rapidly and you need to be able to adapt quickly and learn.

Who do you work with?

My colleagues in the Risk team, Traders, making sure I understand their strategies and that we’re implementing risk processes that support our Trading activities. I also work closely with developers and engineers daily. I’ve learnt how to code and have had to pick up on Technical lingo as there’s ongoing teamwork with the tech teams and we are continuously looking to improve our tools, workflow and systems.

Your proudest achievement so far?

Overseeing an erroneous pricing protection project from start to finish over the past 12 months. It’s one of those things that requires ongoing improvements, but it’s great to see it having an impact already. It started out as an idea, in an area that we knew we needed to improve. Through conversations with traders and developers we’ve been able to build something of real value to our business.

Favourite part of working at Optiver?

The freedom to be creative and pursue any ideas that I think might be worthwhile. With that freedom, you can make a change without having to go through a bunch of hurdles. We have a pretty good work life balance too.

What challenges did you face initially?

Adapting to work hours (laughs). You come out of university and you do not realise how much free time you had. From the first day here you undertake a training course and you’re expected to learn quickly. It is a steep learning curve and you need to be able to apply this knowledge to your every day work. I wasn’t quite prepared for that when I started, but you are always surrounded by a supportive network of people.

Any advice to potential candidates?

If you enjoy working with exceptional people in a fast paced environment, and being challenged by the problems that we need to solve then I’d encourage you to apply.


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