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What it's really like to work for Renaissance Technologies

Algorithmic trading firm Renaissance Technologies is not your average financial services firm. One of the earliest players in the electronic trading space, 'RenTech' is known for being a scientific company more than a financial one. But there are various quirks that make the firm even more bizarre, not least its eclectic CEO. In a podcast with Goldman Sachs, its CEO Peter Brown discussed how it hires its staff, how the firm operates and dropped a few of his unique stories about the unusual culture.

Who is Renaissance Technologies Hiring?

"We just hire mathematicians, physicists and computer scientists with no background in finance and no connections with Wall Street," Brown shared. "The company was founded by scientists, its owned by scientists, it's run by scientists." The cliché that it's easier to teach markets to a mathematician than mathematics to an expert in the markets lives.

Brown has some other needs. He wants Renaissance's engineers and quants to have "math ability, programming ability, a love for data and, most importantly, the ability and desire to work in a collegial environment."

How do you get a job at Renaissance Technologies?

If you think you're a good candidate for a job Renaissance, be prepared for an intensive interview process. It starts out like all the others: resumes are collected, interviews are conducted over the phone, references are checked... but then it goes off-piste.

If you're early interviews at RenTech are successful, you'll be asked to give a research talk, in line with what you would do "if you were applying for a job at a university," according to Brown.

That is not the end. Brown says the survivors are then put "through a grueling day of solving problems in math, physics, statistics, computer science and so forth at a blackboard."

The CEO is "embarrassed" when you use Excel

Mastery of Excel might be a claim to fame in an investment bank, but Excel magic at Renaissance is more of a taboo. Brown, who has been steadily automating many of the processes of the firm for decades, "just [doesn't] see why humans need to be involved in the process of translating trades to monthly statements."

While Brown says 97% of spreadsheets originally used by the company have been eliminated, he says he's "embarrassed to admit that we still have a few people who use Excel... but we're getting there."

Who is Renaissance Technologies CEO Peter Brown?

CEOs of banks have quirks, but Peter Brown is a special case. 

He has a relentless work ethic (and potentially insomnia) that traditional finance professionals can relate to.  Brown declares that it's "really fantastic" to work for "nearly 80 straight hours each week with no interruptions except sleep."

When he does sleep, it's usually in the office. Brown has spent 2,000 nights there. 

Brown is at home in the office. In the past, he had a reputation for riding around the office on a unicycle. He stopped after he "crashed and the unicycle broke."

How to get a raise at Renaissance Technologies

Renaissance demands a lot from its employees but gives pay when its due.

Brown says that when he was working late one night, he needed an answer from an off-the-clock colleague at 1am. Another colleague, who was with Brown in the office, said, "Wait, you can't call this guy in the middle of the night, he doesn't make enough money." Brown's solution? He called the man, gave him a raise, and asked him the question immediately after.

That's not the norm. If you really want to earn more money at Renaissance you need to make sure all teams are working well together. "We pay everyone from the same pot instead of paying different groups in accordance with how much money they've made for us," says Brown.

While getting in a team with high visibility might be important at other firms, Brown says Renaissance will "constantly change those teams up so that people get to know others within the firm."

Is Renaissance Technologies a remote-friendly company?

Not really.  Brown says he "felt we weren't as creative working at home [during the pandemic] as we were when we're together." The "esprit de corps was better in person." 

Even so, RenTech spent time during COVID to create a conferencing system in which people could hold meetings, make presentations and so on. Rival electronic trading firm Jane Street took a similar approach, and both firms still use their new systems today.

How much does Renaissance Technologies pay?

Renaissance doesn't pay huge salaries compared to rivals like Jane Street, but people there have become very, very rich over the years by virtue of coinvesting in the Medallion Fund. 

Renaissance is hiring for a number of different roles in engineering and research in two offices, one in New York, another in neighboring hamlet East Setauket. The roles with the highest salaries are data programmers and research scientists, but all candidates have potential to earn a salary of over $150k. As with all trading firms, though, it's not really about the salary: the bonus is what matters. 

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AUTHORAlex McMurray Editor
  • Mo
    14 September 2023

    Trying their arse off to recruit. Something smells fishy...

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