For this edition of ‘Into the Business’, Estimator travelled to Amsterdam to interview Laurens Snijer, a graduated econometrician who is currently working as a trader at Flow Traders.
How did you get this job at Flow Traders?
I studied Econometrics & Operations Research at the University of Maastricht. While I was doing this, I did a board year at UniPartners, because I always thought I wanted to work as a consultant at BCG or Bain&Company. During this board year, one of my fellow board mates was going to do a business course at Flow Traders. He suggested the business course as he thought I would be interested in this as well. After the business course, I changed my career plans and decided to pursue a career at Flow Traders instead.
What exactly do you do?
I’m still quite junior, which basically entails that I am trying to optimize our trading strategies. Let me clarify that with an example: When certain institutions act, their actions have quite big consequences for the trading market. Most of the times, you do know what influence such an action has on the market. However, trying to make all of your trades one-by-one won’t allow you to take full advantage of certain situations. My job is to automatize the logic behind the trades.
I am also in contact with the Quantitative Research team, which is a team of people that develop trading solutions and machine-learning techniques. Because I both have the background, and I find it a lot of fun, I basically present my team’s ideas, and try to figure out together with the Quants whether it actually makes sense. It works the other way around as well: Statistically, a certain method might be perfect, but that does not mean that such a method is practical by default.
You have a lot of freedom within the company, though. Two months after I started working here, I got an idea about a trading solution for car dealers. I presented this idea to my boss, and I really thought he was not going to be willing to put me on such a project. However, he allowed me to dive deeper into this idea, which was very nice.
What other job opportunities would there be for econometricians?
We have a risk management department, but I would recommend econometricians to apply for a Quants position. Here, you will be mostly figuring out statistical models, whereafter you will try to put these models into a proper code. You could also become a screen, tech or spread trader, which does not necessarily require you to have a background in econometrics or statistics. During the first couple of months you will learn everything you need to know. That is why we also have traders with backgrounds in physics, finance, mathematics, aerospace engineering etc.
We highly value econometricians as we see a correlation between their skillset and the skillset of a trader.
What is it like to work for Flow Traders?
We actually have a gym in the building, which is quite nice as we are also provided free food throughout the day. Without the gym, I would have probably gained a few pounds since I started my job here.
However, sometimes my job can be quite stressful. I am the kind of person that keeps postponing until the very last minute, so the fact that my job is quite stressful all the time kind of keeps me focused and motivated. The transition between university and this job was relatively difficult for a short period of time, as I had to get used to the high intensity that comes with this job, but now I really do enjoy it!
Is the work floor competitive?
Before I started working here, I had heard a lot of stories about a so-called “backstabbing culture”. However, I have never noticed this on the work floor. We work in a performance driven company where we try to outsmart the competition every day. This results in a working environment with very motivated colleagues who try to be better, faster and smarter every day! Of course, people want to perform well and perhaps even be the best, but we never deliberately try to mess with each other’s work to make ourselves come out on top. We have a very team-driven culture at Flow Traders!
What’s the most interesting project you’ve worked on so far?
I’d been at the crypto desk quite early on already. I didn’t have a lot of knowledge about it, but with the help of two senior traders, I built the automatic machines that perform trades and these machines work and are used every day.
Do you still apply the knowledge from that project?
Yes, definitely. I constantly apply it. It’s mostly game theory. You can choose to take a certain strategy at a certain moment and you can do it perfectly, but if another person takes another strategy then the strategy you took at that moment can be useless in two weeks’ time. So that’s a constant game in which you’re trying to beat other people and the equilibrium is never achieved, you’re never done. Moreover, it’s not necessary to change everything immediately so it’s convenient to have settings on the machines that are robust to changes.
And you didn’t have much experience with trading right?
No. However, it is helpful to be aware of trading concepts before you start the recruitment process. For example, you can start trading on a mock account. We mainly hire people with a background in econometrics or mathematics. Most important is to have a genuine interest in financial markets, to be able to think quantitatively and act quick on your feet.
Besides being able to handle stress and possessing quantitative skills, are there any other important skills necessary when applying for a job here?
You have to be able to quickly make calculations on the spot. You would ask yourself, why is this necessary as you can calculate everything precisely on the machine? If the market gets really volatile, and for whatever reason something in the machine stops working, you should be able to do the calculations yourself. This should not take more than a second or two!
We’ve heard that it’s tough to apply for a job here in the sense that you have to have good quantitative skills but you also should be able to have that intuition. Is that true?
We have a specific application procedure and a part of it is testing how you work under pressure. First you have to complete two tests (a math test and an IQ test). You can definitely practice for both of them. The next round will be a motivational interview in which you will be also asked to solve some brainteasers. The final round is a case study in which you have to show your analytical skills and trading intuition. At every stage of the recruitment process you will receive a preparation document so you know what to expect!