Irrespective of the debate over their role as liquidity providers or liquidity removers, high frequency trading firms (HFT) are appealing as employers. Firstly, they pay well. Secondly, they pay well in cash. And thirdly, they're usually small and nimble outfits with none of the regulatory and political baggage that comes with a big bank. It's fortuitous, then, that US high frequency trading firms are hiring in London.
Recruiters claim that XR Trading, DRW Trading and Sun Trading are all looking for staff in the city. Interestingly, XR Trading - which only registered with the FCA in May 2014, is looking for traders without any prior experience. Its only requirement is a GPA in excess of 3.75 and a degree in electrical engineering, computer science, chemistry, mathematics and physics.
The man to talk to at XR is Dimitrios Maurides, head of the European trading operation. A former director in sales at Bank of America, Maurides joined DRW in August and is understood to be spearheading the company's expansion in London. He wasn't available to comment for this article, but recruiters say XR is offering some generous salaries: "I've seen them offering £130k in base pay to people with four years' experience," says one recruiter. This is a lot for high frequency trading, where base pay is often held below £100k and the upside is in the bonus.
Away from XR, more experienced traders may want to send their CVs to the likes of Headlands Technologies, a US-based high frequency trading firm which spun out of Citadel in 2010 and also gained registration for its London office in May 2014. So far Headlands only has three registered employees in London: Neil Fitzpatrick, Headland's founder, COO and CFO, Jonathan Tullett, a senior trader with a background in risk technology, and Krisan Haria, a former ETF trader and quantitative strategist at Unicredit in London.
Sun Trading, which is well established in London, is also said to be hiring traders - although publicly it's only looking for systems professionals, compliance professionals and quant developers.
Natalie Basiratpour, a senior quant recruiter at search firm Selby Jennings, says there are two routes into high frequency trading jobs now. "You either need to go in out of university - usually at PhD level, in which case you need incredible grades. Or you need an immaculate track record from another firm."
Recruiters caution against joining newly registered HFT firms without asking a lot of questions about their infrastructure. "It's quite common for firms to start hiring when they don't have the low latency infrastructure in place," says one. "They'll say that it will all be ready in a few months, but time frames can easily slip and in the meantime it will be a lot more difficult to make money."