How one man escaped a quant job and became a macro portfolio manager

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Once a quant, always a quant. To talk to some of the brightest and mathematical people in global finance, quant jobs can feel a bit like a dead end. "Quants have moved from largely front office jobs to largely middle office jobs," one quantitative strategist at a US bank told us recently. "Most of the quant roles are now related to risk and accounting."

If you're a quant who's frustrated in your role, you might be interested in the example set by Marco Jean Aboav, a former quant at Citigroup. Aboav, who has a PhD in investment management from Politecnico di Milano, joined online wealth management platform MoneyFarm as a macro portfolio manager three months ago.

"This was a big move forward in my career," says Aboav. "Before, I was in quant research, helping others decide how to allocate assets. I had no ultimate responsibility for P&L. Now, I manage the macro fund and my decisions directly impact our performance." 

With global macro funds struggling, now may not be the time to try your hand at asset allocation for the first time, but Aboav is pretty confident in his skills. "It's stressful and the markets very volatile, but we've managed to preserve capital since I joined, which is what's important to us."

Founded in Italy, MoneyFarm began rolling out its online wealth management platform in the UK last year. The arrival of people like Aboav illustrates the extent to which start-ups offer interesting career paths to finance professionals - along with promotional opportunities which may not be available in banks and hedge funds.

Aboav says his role at MoneyFarm is more interesting than trading jobs in investment banks. "In a bank now you can't place proprietary trades any more-  it's just market making." At MoneyFarm, he says he gets to work in multi-asset investing. "It's the juicy part that used to exist in banking but doesn't any more."

Aboav might even be open to hiring other quants who want to break out into something more exciting instead. "Right now, I have headcount for summer internship roles and if the business grows, we will have portfolio management positions too," he says.

Aboav's preference is to hire portfolio managers who also have a, "strong technical background."

"I want a strong technical background, strong financial engineering skills, and strong market awareness," he says. It will help too to be familiar with coding languages like VBA, SQL, Scala, Python and Hadoop.

Photo credit: Maths by AJC is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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