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Summer 2019

Summer Diaries: WORLDQUANT

August 4, 2019
- Ishan Shandilya

It has been almost a year since I read Aditya Chaturvedi’s summer intern diary on his experience with Edelweiss, and that turned out to be my first footsteps in the intriguing world of Finance. So, I would suggest the readers to go through his blog from last year’s collection of diaries before you proceed, you may extract some really invaluable gyan about the world of finance and… probably about life as well :D

My Story

Before going into the specifics about my internship or “quantitative finance” I would like to take you through the story of digging out my area of interest from the deep cave of diverse opportunities that are available in this pious campus of ours!

I entered my second year with a zeal to find my interest, a deteriorating enthusiasm for my majors Chemical Engineering and with a guilt of spending my summers with a controller in hand and celebrating goals I scored ( in FIFA :p ) more proudly than Cristiano Ronaldo himself ( well, I am still proud of it! ). So, I asked some of my seniors and started doing some standard courses in the field of Machine Learning. I liked reading Watch Out’s summer intern diaries a lot and one day I came across Aditya’s blog. He was talking about “quantitative finance” and I read the wikipedia page which mentioned: Mathematical finance, also known as quantitative finance and financial mathematics, is a field of applied mathematics, concerned with mathematical modeling of financial markets. I had always loved the “intuitive yet so counter-intuitive” world of mathematics but had no particular interest in the complex and boring (yes that was me then!) financial markets. I pinged him on Facebook and got a reply a fortnight later, talked about his internship and Finance in general, he suggested me some courses and websites to get an overview about the financial markets, to which I was very reluctant as all I cared about was “MATHS”! Still, I read some blogs and saw some videos and to my surprise I found them really interesting. Then, blogs from top Football journalists got replaced with those Finance literatures in my google news feed and in those days you could find me glued into my cell phone throughout the lectures, asking Investopedia the meaning of terms like “Debt”, “Equity”, “Arbitrage” and what not. It was the first time that I got a feeling of doing something just because I really liked it and without being influenced by the crowd around me. So, I decided to shift my complete focus towards Finance to explore it further. Aditya helped me a lot with everything, every small doubt which I had, I ran to his doorstep, and he never turned me down. He kept on motivating me to read more and his passion about learning finance was second to none. The thing which still gives me goosebumps is the fact that he invested hours in me helping with my silly doubts and giving me some gyan from his book of life experiences just like a responsible elder brother in his final year while all of his batch mates were busy preparing for the placement season.

Overview of “Quant Finance”

By now you might have got an idea about the prerequisites of working in this industry: An undying curiosity about Financial Markets and a stronghold on Mathematics. To clear a very common misconception, Probability and Statistics is not the only field of maths which plays a strong role but if you come to areas such as derivative pricing, calculus can literally rip you off! As an engineering student it is difficult to get into a finance role but there are certain online platforms (Websim and Quantopian are the most popular ones) which can help you check if your interest lies in this area and if that is the case, you can build a very strong skill set. If you are interested in doing some courses which are relevant, you can always feel free to ping me!

Process of Selection

WorldQuant recruits on-campus interns only from IIT Bombay, Delhi and Kanpur for pre-final year students. I was still in my second year and my selection was through an off-campus drive which I have described below. I came across the Research Consultant Program of WorldQuant LLC, a US-based hedge fund. I will give you a brief introduction about their program before I proceed further. WorldQuant’s business model is trading “Long-Short Equity Models” called alphas, back tested on historical data (don’t worry if you didn’t understand what I just said, you are not even expected to, try to google it out if you need some insights about it, not a specific requirement for this blog though!). They have created “Websim” which is a very user-friendly platform where begineers like you and me can test our own ideas and see if they work in the equity market. I got really intrigued at this prospect and started exploring their platform further. WorldQuant was soon about to host the IIT Roorkee Alphathon ( think of it as a marathon of making alphas as the name suggests ) and there were cash prizes and internship opportunities for the top scorers. I took part in the contest which was 20 day long and ended on the 31st of December. These alphathons were conducted in other IITs and BITS as well. I had a decent score in the alphathon and got a call for the interview. There were two rounds, the first one was a technical interview, taken by one of the researchers at WorldQuant, where I was asked some technical questions related to the platform, a few standard puzzles and was also asked to explain some of my trading strategies. The interview was fairly good and I got a call for the final HR round. I had received my offer letter a week after the interview and then there was a background check process which took almost a month.

The Internship Experience

Coming to the internship experience, I can’t really go into the project details specifically as WorldQuant has some strict rules and regulations for the same. The fact which amazed me completely was that WorldQuant never really made me feel that I was an intern which is very rare among firms of such stature. I had one to one interactions with each and every member of the firm, at least in my division, throughout the vertical hierarchy system and across the globe. As far as the technical skills are concerned, I got hands on experience with the most cutting-edge technology which is currently used in the world of Quantitative Research and I worked on projects which were meant to be implemented globally by the firm. Another key highlight was the chance to showcase my creativity and ideas with complete independence, this was possible because of the individualistic yet so supportive work environment of the firm. I wasn’t supposed to follow some formal dress code or a strict working hour system, I had access to all the tools 24/7 and my work was all that mattered. Most importantly, WorldQuant provided me a very supportive environment where I could discuss all my problems without any hesitation, which indeed helped me perform well and learn better!


Summing up and Key Takeaways

I had a different selection process as most firms take off-campus interns through Linkedin. If you want to know the most efficient procedure of landing an internship in the quantitative finance industry using Linkedin, please go through Aditya Chaturvedi’s blog on his internship with Edelweiss from last year’s collection of intern diaries about which I mentioned in the beginning, you can also have a look at Ram Bansal’s blog from last year’s set of diaries to learn about targeting internships through Linkedin, in general.

The internship made me realize that with quantitative finance it is the hands-on experience with the practical world which matters more than the literature we read and study as far as the process of learning and gaining knowledge is concerned. All the informal chats with seniors across the firm provided me with a clearer vision of the industry. This also helped me realize that I still have a lot to learn before entering the competitive world of quantitative finance, and this was my most important takeaway from the internship.

I paid a special emphasis on the “story” part to showcase the importance of knowing your interest and having the courage of believing in it. I also want to highlight that through this whole process starting from fighting for a top place in the college alphathon to successfully finishing my internship at WorldQuant, I have learnt the importance of positive team work more than anything else. I always had seniors to provide me support on all aspects be it technical doubts or some personal problem, friends with whom I could discuss the working of financial markets and … well various other things :p. When you sit down and tinker for a while keeping all the rush of our daily lives aside, you will realize that these are the things which matter the most!