Sunday, October 11, 2009

The best environment for quantitative trading

Let me talk about a topic that is far more mundane than the usual high-brow theoretical discussions of strategies and algorithms, but that has no less long-term impact on the bottom line: what is the best office environment for research and execution of quantitative trading strategies?

I have worked in different office environments before, so I feel qualified to offer an informed opinion.

At Morgan Stanley, I huddled over a desk that is semi-partitioned from the rest of the office: nobody could see or bother me unless I or they stood up. At Credit Suisse, I shared an office with 2 other prop trading colleagues, one of whom was prone to freely sharing his opinion on various current affairs with his officemates. (On the other hand, he complained my biting an apple for lunch was too loud for him.) At Maple, a hedge fund in New Jersey, I shared an office with about 100 other colleagues on the trading floor, many of whom were prone to same opinion-sharing temptation.

Here at my own firm, I sit in solitude (except for my cat) in my basement office, my beloved classical FM streaming over the internet, my desktop electronically connected to my partner in our Chicago office, our trading servers at Amazon and elsewhere, and other clients and partners around the world, but unmolested throughout the day unless I voluntarily pick up the phone or answer an email or instant message.

Can you guess which environment is the one I find the most productive? Which one has the least stress? And which one contributes most to the bottom line of my employers/partners/clients?

(Hint 1: read Timothy Ferriss' book The 4-Hour Workweek. This guy checks his email only once a week.)

(Hint 2: my trading Sharpe ratio went from negative to >7.)

P.S. I look forward to meeting some of you at the Automated Trading Conference in London this Friday (my talk will start at 0900), and others at my pairs trading workshop on the preceding two days.