Quant hedge funds have a new approach to filling their talent gap

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When Sham Mustafa and Rasheed Sabar set up Correlation One in 2015 they could clearly see that the need for data science skills was growing exponentially while the pool of available data scientists was not.  What they couldn’t tell was that the pool of available data scientists was curiously homogenous: almost everyone in it was a man.

“We were running competitions for data science jobs and finding that typically 90% of our applicants were males and only 10% were female,” says Sabar, who previously spent 13 years as head of quant strategies at hedge fund Ellington Management Group. “We saw this over a period of several years and realized it was a supply-side issue. There were just fewer females getting into the area.”

In the words of Sabar and Mustafa, Correlation One is all about helping organizations “climb the data literacy curve.” This assistance takes the form of talent attraction, talent assessment and talent training. Mostly, it’s known for running competitions of the kind it organized for XTX Markets, the electronic trading company, in July.

“Our philosophy is that skills speak louder than resumes,” says Sabar. “That the way to identify talent is to be systematic and quantitative in the way you select people. To use impartial assessments instead of heuristics like the pedigree of a previous employer or school.”

When it worked with XTX Markets, Correlation One devised a competition to build a quantitative-driven electronic market maker that could create models to predict price movements. It’s now running a new and more comprehensive ‘summit’ for a whole range of clients with the aim of attracting raw data talent to the finance industry. But there’s a twist: the summit is only open to women.

“We’ve placed plenty of women before, but this is our inaugural event just for women,” says Mustafa. Called, ‘Data Science For All,’ (DS4A), the summit will run between Saturday October 12th and Friday October 25th, with meet-ups in New York City on the 12th, 19th and 25th

The current roster of summit sponsors includes Citadel, Point72, Marshall Wace and Ernst & Young. The intention is to steer women towards data science jobs in the sponsor companies. 75 places on the summit are available and despite the dearth of female quants, competition for places is already fierce: 750 women had applied by last Thursday and more are likely before the deadline of midnight EST on October 3rd.

Applicants can be students or experienced female quants. They will need to take a 'foundational skills asssement' examining their ability to interpret charts and tables, to answer basic probability questions, and to respond to information processing and analysis questions. Places will go to female candidates who score highest on the assessment and who are looking for employment. 

Successful candidates will get to attend the summit and meet employers. They'll also get a mentor throughout the two week period and there's a 90% chance your mentor will be female. 

Sabar says they're already getting some atypical but "excellent" applicants. They include a military veteran who studied a "couple of degrees" and is now working as a data scientist. Women shouln't rule themselves out of jobs just because they don't have precisely the right experience, says Sabar. Men certainly don't, and by providing a combination of mentoring and 'skills-based' assessment, DS4A is trying to redress the balance.

 Have a confidential story, tip, or comment you’d like to share? Contact: sbutcher@efinancialcareers.com in the first instance. Whatsapp/Signal/Telegram also available.

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