My name is Uku and in the beginning of 2017 I left Groningen to become a trader. Now it’s more than a year that I have worked at Flow Traders but the whole story of finding my place goes way back.
Around four years ago when I went to my first conference in Groningen, I saw a presentation by Flow Traders’ co-founder Jan van Kuijk who sparked my interest in proprietary trading. I had always been into finance and trading but this presentation showed me that there exists a more interesting alternative to all the big players in the industry. What helped as well is that Flow organizes a ton of events for students and I took part in few of them - an in-house day, a poker evening and a business course. I hope my experience can help you to prepare for your first job by giving a few tips.
In my opinion, the most important part of any career preparation is to be exposed to a lot of different options since the early stage of one's study to figure out what you really like the most. Besides online research, speak to representatives of many different companies during conferences and networking drinks. Firstly, it will give you a good picture of the culture and the level of professionalism at each company and more importantly, confidence to nail your interviews later on.
For trading, more specifically, it's good to observe that whereas 'trader' is a rather widely spread title, there is a huge difference between what traders do in banks or pension funds compared to proprietary trading firms. The main difference is probably that in proprietary firms we actually do trade all day, every day (and to put it in perspective, each small team does thousands of trades per day). Furthermore, the flat structure with almost no hierarchy permits split second decision making on your own and allows your creativity to work for the benefit of the company without unnecessary boundaries. Despite there being many people who deem the culture and the nature of jobs in the other parts of financial industry more suitable, it surely pays off to be aware of the smaller firms with different business model, too. It's easy to enjoy the small company atmosphere (and benefits that come along with it), that Flow Traders has managed to maintain despite growing rapidly during the past years.
Of course the above doesn't imply lack of diversity in our department. There are many types of traders and everybody makes their own path at Flow Traders. Some like to build complex quantitative models, some enjoy programming and that becomes a great part of their contribution. Also, there are guys who use very simple models or tools but have creative ideas that give them the edge. One way or another, a sharp analytical mind is a must. Luckily, our study prepares us relatively well for the analytical thinking and modelling part. Yet there is so much that is not taught at the university and requires passion and personal interest in the field. Even though it's generally said that there's not much you can prepare and indeed your knowledge will expand exponentially from the moment you start at your new job, it is always good to have a head start. In this case, e.g. having followed what’s happening in the financial markets and world in general out of your own interest already for years helps a lot. Understanding the causal relationships in the macroeconomics to a good extent is definitely something that smoothens the landing. Besides that, there are aspects where university and real world differ by a great deal. For instance, during my studies I was encouraged to stay as far as possible from Excel - and I agree, it was not useful for any academic purposes. However, in the 'real world' that's what everybody uses. Thus, it definitely pays off not to be a total novice to Excel and knowing your way around VBA saves a bunch of time when accommodating your ideas at the trading desk. Needless to say, what's mentioned above makes it easier once you already have a job. For the interview, there's relatively less to prepare but here's a quick run-trough. First part of the interview is a math test which is entirely speed based and you can train for that on websites such as tradertest.org (easy level). Secondly, you should be able to clearly express your motivation for working with us, and lastly, it's good to know a little bit about our specialization - exchange traded funds (ETFs).
And that's it - please visit flowtraders.com for extra info and if you have more questions about the trader job feel free to reach out to me.