Whose Planet Is It Anyway?

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Quantitative Opportunity

Teenagers and university students often have a hard time making career plans. Although many autistic youths have interests that are clearly defined, they may find it difficult to identify a career that is a good fit for their interests, talents, and work-environment preferences. For those who have a strong aptitude for mathematics and are pondering career choices, here’s an option that you might not have considered:

You could be a quant.

As reported by the BBC program More or Less, mathematicians known as quantitative analysts, or “quants” for short, now dominate the financial markets. These mathematicians work for hedge funds and banks, designing complicated algorithms for computerized trading. Typically, they are paid a percentage of the money that a mathematical model earns for an employer. Those who develop successful models can earn millions and live in luxury. The work requires a willingness to take risks, and it’s not for the faint of heart: Flaws in these models can cause major problems in the international financial markets.

In recruiting likely prospects at the hedge funds, hiring decisions depend in large part on raw mathematical intelligence, and some funds employ many quants who are autistic. When interviewed, a hedge fund CEO described his hiring practices as follows:

David Harding, who heads London-based hedge fund Winton Capital Management, recruits top mathematicians from all over the world.

"In today's world there's a good market for social skills. We do not necessarily require that," he says.

"We just require people to be clever and obsessively interested in research."

Here’s a New Year’s hurrah for Mr. Harding and others like him for being sensible enough to hire the best people for the job, without discrimination. Let’s hope that employers in other industries will also realize that it is in their best interests to make more opportunities available to qualified autistic workers.



  • I was a quant until recently for a major bank on Wall Street. However, I worked on the investment banking side in M&A post projection analysis.

    Another line of work you'll find a large percentage of autistics is in actuary for large insurance companies.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:35 PM  

  • For heaven's sake stop peddling the mathematical genius rainman meme

    We are not all good at arithmetic.

    I'm gonna need my computer to do all my research stats for me.

    By Blogger Larry Arnold PhD FRSA, at 4:59 AM  

  • Christschool: I'm glad they appreciated your talents!

    Larry: I'm not a mathematical genius either (far from it), and my post wasn't meant to suggest that we are all savants. I wrote about the BBC story because I found it refreshing to see the mainstream media discussing an industry that values autistic workers.

    By Blogger abfh, at 9:43 AM  

  • I've read that being good at arithmetic has little to do with being a mathematician. Calculators do sums. Mathematicians do .... mathematics.

    By Blogger Lili Marlene, at 5:40 AM  

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