What it does: Proprietary trading
Staff Stats: 150+ in Australia and 2,300+ globally
The good bits: Fantastic corporate culture and great perks
The not so good bits: Demanding environment - everyone expected to positively impact results
Hiring grads with degrees in: Engineering, Maths, IT & Computer Sciences; Sciences
SIG was founded by a group of friends who went to university together along the Susquehanna River at the State University of New York in Binghamton.
These friends enjoyed game theory, statistics and probabilities, and playing cards. Not long after finishing university, they realised that there were a lot of similarities between these interests and trading options. Soon they were applying the same quantitative decision-making techniques used in gaming to the capital markets. Thus, critical SIG values that hold true today: rational decision making, calculating expectancy and hedging risk, have their origins back in Binghamton, along the Susquehanna River.
SIG trades almost every financial product across markets globally, with proprietary trading technology that has long been amongst the most sophisticated in the industry.
SIG describes itself as “a global quantitative trading firm founded with an entrepreneurial mindset and analytical approach to decision making”. The firm commits its own capital to “trade financial products around the world”. Its staff – in particular, traders, quants, research analysts, and technologists– work collaboratively to develop and implement trading strategies. SIG builds most of its trading technology from scratch, and is a leader and innovator in “high performance, low latency trading”.
SIG’s culture is very well aligned with their approach to business. They care about bringing the best and the brightest thinkers into the business. The dress is casual. They care about how you think, not how you dress. Unusual for a financial trading firm, they are not constrained by traditional approaches, unnecessary bureaucracy or ‘red tape’, which means that everyone across the business is able to create innovative solutions to challenging problems, every day. The environment is highly collaborative and dynamic. It is common to see technologists, traders, quants, and research analysts debating ideas in the kitchen or huddled around a trader’s workstation discussing the best way to overcome an issue or improve a trading idea.
SIG does not actively publicise its social inclusion policies or activity, although it is obvious when looking at their social media activity that they are actively involved in a multitude of social causes. They let their employees drive their social agenda by supporting what’s important to their employees through the SIG Donation Matching Program. They also support various social activities, both locally and globally throughout the year, such as Christmas appeals, charity health and fitness challenges, and donating all of their leftover food (they provide a fully-stocked kitchen and catered lunch every day) to local homeless shelters.
Globally, SIG seeks to recruit “intellectually curious and motivated students” who are also communicative, detail-orientated, and team players. The firm’s recruitment efforts focus on finding graduates to work primarily in trading, buy side research, and quant research.
If you want to work at the Sydney office, which serves as SIG’s Asia-Pacific HQ, you’ll need a STEM or other quantitative degree. You’ll also be expected to demonstrate “exceptional analytical and probability skills [and] an interest in financial markets”. There appear to be three grad program options currently available at the Sydney office: the Quantitative Trader program, Buy Side Research Analyst program, and Quantitative Research Analyst program (for PhD grads).
The Quantitative Trader program is regarded as one of the best of its kind in the world. It involves working “in a collaborative and collegial environment while learning to make positive expectancy decisions in financial markets”. If you are hired as a quantitative trader, you will participate in an education program run by one of the firm’s founders, along with three senior traders. You will be taught about “decision science, game theory and capital markets” and will play poker and other strategy games to practice making optimal decisions under conditions of uncertainty. You will also get real-world experience working within a trading team and engage in ‘mock trading’, which will teach you how to “make trading decisions by simulating the trading floor of an open-outcry exchange”.
The Buy Side Research Analyst program includes classroom education and on-the-job mentorship from a senior buy side research analyst. As a new buy side research analyst, you’ll be taught about “options theory, decision science, and the products that SIG trades” in the classroom. You will also be immediately placed on a trading desk to work alongside senior analysts. Over the course of your training, you’ll take on increasing coverage responsibilities.
The Quantitative Research Analyst program is designed for PhD graduates. Through a combination of classroom education, one-on-one mentorship from senior quants, and on-the-job experience, you’ll learn how to apply your problem-solving skills and mathematical creativity to create solutions in today’s competitive and constantly changing financial markets.
If you don’t make contact with SIG at your campus career fair, you can look for quantitative trader, buy side research analyst, or quant positions at the Sydney office here. If you’ve got the right background, you can expect to do two or three phone interviews followed by an on-site, face-to-face one. Expect to be quizzed on some or all of the following: game theory, logic, mathematics, probability, programming principles and statistics.
SIG doesn’t “post salary ranges externally” but you’re unlikely to have anything to complain about. Starting salaries are reported to be pleasingly high and it’s possible to supplement them with performance-related bonuses.
Benefits vary depending on location but, again, you can expect to be well looked after. You’ll get generous leave, including paid parental leave, as well as invitations to a lot of exciting events throughout the year. Plus, there’s free catered breakfast and lunch every day, along with access to a “fully-stocked kitchen with nutritious snack options”. (SIG’s Sydney office is in the buzzy Barangaroo district. It includes an on-site gym with views across Sydney Harbour, a game room, and an 80-seat cafeteria.)
SIG offers a career-related education assistance program that can “help you grow professionally”. The standard career progression for a trader is to go from a new quantitative trader to senior quantitative trader to desk lead. It’s possible to do this in under a decade if you are highly motivated. Because SIG doesn’t adhere to the bureaucratic structure of other finance firms, it’s possible to take on a key decision making role at the firm relatively quickly. They believe that the greatest idea wins, whether you have been working for five months or five years. This philosophy encourages new employees to be curious and express their ideas from an early time on the desk.
In 2013, SIG was ranked the best financial service company to work for by Forbes. The firm’s success is almost entirely dependent on attracting and retaining top talent. Unsurprisingly, that talent is treated well with incredible facilities and fun employee outings. There’s also the opportunity to attend major sporting events and participate in office “volleyball, basketball, soccer, bocce [and] bowling” teams.
SIG’s founders were keen poker players and that card game has long been central to the firm’s culture. SIG’s leadership encourages staff who aren’t already poker players to learn the game, believing it teaches valuable lessons about making good decisions under conditions of uncertainty. The firm hosts an annual internal (No-Limit Texas Hold’em) poker tournament and employs two of the world’s best poker players (both of whom are integral to the quantitative trader education program).