When you leave a Citadel quant job at the wrong moment
Neel Somani seems to have been a victim of poor timing. For 18 months from September 2020, he worked for hedge fund Citadel as a quant developer in Chicago, building tools for the commodities desk. But sometime last year, Somani had the sort of excellent idea that makes you want to leave your hedge fund job and go it alone.
Somani's great idea, explained in his blog, was to build an ethereum virtual machine on TerraUSD, the cryptocurrency token that was supposed to be pegged to the US dollar. He left Citadel in February and, his new company TerraNova finance is ready to go. TerraUSD, however, is in tatters. "I quit my job at Citadel to get wrecked in web3," says Somani on Twitter, although it's not clear whether Citadel let him go. It's also not clear how much Somani earned at Citadel, but Levelsfyi suggests $250k might be somewhat on the modest side.
Like Michael Roberts, the former head of Bank of America's EMEA prime brokerage business who left for crypto custody firm Copper in March, Somani says he has no regrets about breaking away from traditional finance. TerraNova finance is no longer viable, but Somani says he already has another idea in the works. "I'm excited to continue building in crypto," he tells us.
Somani may not be ready to go back to finance, but finance firms and their recruiters are already sensing an opportunity in the current tech, fintech and crypto rout. As technology stocks plunge, technology firms are cutting headcount and recruitment. Meta, Uber and Twitter have hiring freezes. Emilie Choi, president and chief operating officer of Coinbase, said today that Coinbase will be "slowing hiring" so as to "reprioritize...hiring needs against our highest-priority business goals." Fintechs like Robinhood and MainStreet are throwing staff overboard in an effort to cut costs.
The pain is palpable on Blind, the technology-focused forum website. "Some of y'all never had to job hunt like a normal person and it shows. Hiring slows down a little bit and you all panic," says one poster working for California-based Arora, a self-driving platform.
While technology and fintech recruiters swoon, finance recruiters are preparing to pounce. Many of the developers and quants working for big tech firms, fintech or crypto could just as easily work in financial services. Somani is a case in point: he spent a year as a software engineer at Airbnb before joining Citadel. Similarly, JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs have both lost staff to the likes of Coinbase. Now looks like a good moment to win them back again.
In this sense, the tech crash looks like an opportunity. Big banks still have plenty of need for technology staff: Goldman has 418 vacancies to fill; JPMorgan has 5,591; Morgan Stanley has 1,333. Citadel Securities is looking for C++ coders, quant developers and Python engineers.
Vikram Tandon, the New York-based head of recruitment firm Tardis Group, says the technology and fintech sectors are suddenly wide open for finance firms to recruit from. Tandon works with hedge funds and electronic market makers. "Our clients are calling us and saying they'd love to see talent from these technology firms. There's been a definite uptick in those requests."
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