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High frequency trading firms: Who they are, who they hire, what they pay

Now may be a better time than ever to work in high frequency trading (HFT). Following a period of low market volatility, where many firms faltered and were taken over by rivals, some frontrunners have emerged. Jane Street, for example, announced recently that it had a net trading revenue of over seven billion dollars. 😱

HFT firms were an enigma, even after the release of Michael Lewis' book Flashboys. Today, things are a little different. The firms have grown, and their reputations have grown with them. At the forefront of most of these representations is the pay which (unless this is your first time hearing about HFT) you'll know is very good. Even still, there are a number of smaller trading firms that have avoided the spotlight while paying as good, if not better, than the big boys. Below are ten HFT firms, some big, some small, some mysterious, and a look at what their pay is like. Please note, this is not a ranking…

Jane Street

Who? While not limited to HFT, electronic trading firm Jane Street has had its culture come to light more than most in recent years. Much of this comes down to a certain former employee... crypto billionaire-turned-convict Sam Bankman-Fried.

It's most well known for its pursuit of entry-level talent, with some of the highest paying internships and graduate positions available.

Hiring? Jane Street is always hiring at entry level. It's got a number of target schools it utilizes, so if alumni from your university have gotten jobs as Jane Street you're probably in the right place.

It hires senior people too, but job titles can often appear vague. Ben Wehrfritz for example joined from Credit Suisse last month, where he was head of reference and market data distribution platforms; at Jane Street his role is "Technology/Data Management'

Pay? When it comes to compensation, Jane Street takes a lot to beat. Its entry level engineers are the highest paid in the world according to levels.fyi, and interns have been said to earn $64k in just 11 weeks. In 2023, Levels says the average total compensation for software engineers was $436k.

Optiver

Who? The European powerhouse of this list, Optiver is an Amsterdam based HFT firm and market maker that's been around since 1986. It's well known for being one of the more prolific hirers of hardware engineers working with Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) as well as traditional software based quant developers and researchers.

Hiring? Optiver is big on hiring graduates and those aforementioned FPGA engineers. It has 12 open student and graduate roles, including FPGA engineers in Amsterdam, Chicago and Austin. 

As for senior FPGA engineers, it recently hired Riccardo Chiello, a lead electronics engineer at the University of Oxford. Back in April, it also hired Justin Eng, an avionics engineer for NASA who worked on sample return helicopters on a mission to Mars. 🚀

Pay? Pay figures at Optiver are a bit harder to come by, but UK data via Companies House provides some insight. In 2022, its 105 UK employees earned an average wage of £98.1k ($125.2k).

However, it's Optiver's profit sharing where the real money is made. It paid almost $48.9m in the UK, $465.7k per head, but it doesn't reveal exactly who received all this pay.

Virtu Financial

Who? Virtu Financial the only publicly traded HFT firm on this list. Back in 2017 it completed a $1.4bn takeover of rival HFT KCG Holdings, a relative giant for its time with close to 1,000 employees. While Virtu doesn't release its employee numbers, social media data suggests they have upwards of 900 staff members today.

Hiring? Despite its size, Virtu is hiring for just 16 roles at the moment. Many of these are internships, including quant roles in both New York and Singapore, the former paying up to $4.5k per week. 

A few senior people have left, however. Ian Williams, CEO of Virtu Canada, left this month, while managing director Chris Tierney left for fintech with capital markets firm Clear Street back in September.

Pay? Virtu's performance has been declining in recent years, but pay has been rising. Despite a 68% fall in net income, it increased its total wage spend to $394m. While we don't know the exact per-head figures, Levels.fyi says the median salary for a software enigneer is $290k.

Jump Trading

Who? A stalwart of HFT, Jump is currently led by ex-JPMorgan VP Dave Olson, who serves as president and CIO. It was one of the HFT firms most bullish on crypto, spinning out a division to trade it, but the FTX scandal caused a number of issues in that department.

Hiring? Jump had around 350 employees back in 2017, now it has upwards of 1400. It has offices in 9 locations, including London, Chicago and Singapore. It's not recruiting for any graduates right now, but it is hiring interns, particularly in its Shanghai office.

For its senior quants, hedge funds have been a key source of talent. Quant dev Michael Shamis joined from Point72's Cubist Systematic Strategies, while quant trader Florian Capolunghi joined from Millennium. 

Pay? Jump Trading's UK arm paid an impressive average of $972.4k to its 271 employees in 2022, but don't expect that to be evenly weighted. For software engineers, the firmwide average on Levels was $379.9k in 2023.

Tower Research Capital

Who? Founded in 1998 by former Credit Suisse prop trader Mark Gorton, Tower Research Capital is a HFT firm comprised of engineers, physicists and computer science graduates. It had around 300 staff in 2017 and has since more than tripled headcount, driven by aggressive hiring in India with a focus on its IIT universities. 

Hiring? Yes. It has 52 open roles currently, and no one office appears to be the main benefactor. Six are in London, ten in Singapore, twelve in New York, seven in Hong Kong and more elsewhere. 13 of the roles are quants and traders, while 28 are in its core engineering team.

Pay? The only available figures are for its European arm, where pay in 2022 averaged out at $770.7k for its 96 employees, up massively from its $488.1k payout the year before. Bear in mind this includes pay for the four directors of the subsidiary.

DRW Trading

Who? Big player in the HFT with around 1,800 employees globally. It’s based in Chicago, but has offices in Amsterdam, Austin, Greenwich, Hong Kong, Houston, London. Montreal, New York, Singapore and Tel Aviv. The London office, for example, has upwards of 250 employees

Hiring? Yes. It has 98 open roles globally, including graduate quants in London and Singapore. Senior hires include quant trader Peiyuan Mao who joins in Chicago after 6 years at Akuna Capital, and portfolio manager Chris Purdue who was most recently in Millennium's growing Floridian tech hub.

Pay? Levels.fyi data suggests the average total compensation for software engineers was $273.9k in 2023. Companies House accounts filed in September for 2022 show that pay in London that year was $500.5k per head. That excludes DRW's three members, who earned $55.5m between them.

IMC

Who? Another HFT veteran from the Netherlands, IMC was founded in 1989. It has offices in Amsterdam, New York, Chicago, London, Sydney and Mumbai.

Hiring? In its 2022 report IMC said it had upwards of 1300 employees, today that figure is closer to 2000.

One of its most senior hires in 2024 is Ramon Puyane. He joined as head of FX trading after over two decades at UBS, where he was global head of FX exotic derivatives. In December, it also hired James Lane as the UK chief compliance and risk officer from Citadel Securities.

Pay? No official figures, but IMC says the "leading principle" of its compensation is "a discretionary profit-sharing variable remuneration. In 2016 it said 17 people earned a variable compensation of more than €1m. On Levels, the average total compensation for software engineers was $286.8k in 2023. 

Hudson River Trading

Who? Hudson River Trading (HRT) was founded by a group of MIT and Harvard graduates in 2002. It currently has 12 offices, more than half of which are in the US, in cities such as Seattle, Boulder and its New York headquarters.

It's another firm that benefitted from the poor performance of its rivals in a down period, acquiring Sun Trading in 2018

Hiring? HRT has grown by ten times its size since 2017, with around 1000 employees today. Around half of these are engineers.

Its most senior hires recently have come from hedge funds. In November, it recruited Two Sigma's former CFO, Brad Olson, for the same role. That same month, it also hired Balyasny PM Adrien Godet, who was previously US head of credit quant research at BNP Paribas.

Pay? Its London operation paid out an average of £387.2k ($493.8k) to 95 employees in 2022, way down from the £558.7k average it paid to 59 employees the year before. 

Radix Trading

Who? One of the more well known niche firms, Radix Trading is a Chicago based firm with around 150 employees. It was founded by ex-Citadel quant Benjamin Blander and Michael Rauchman, ex-CTO of GETCO, one half of KCG Holdings.

Hiring? Radix is big on interns despite its size, and it pays them very well (which we'll get to later). It currently has open roles for a quant researcher, strategist and business analyst.

As for senior hires, Raman Katri who joined in May spent over 12 years at Tower Research Capital, while co-PM and research scientist Zach Herron spent a few years at Jane Street before founding his own crypto quant trading firm Factorial Research.

Pay? According to Levels.fyi, Radix's interns are the highest paid in the world, earning $160 per hour with a $25k signing bonus. 

Salaries for full time quants range between $150k and $200k on the H1B Visa salary database, but presumably TC is much higher. Engineers earn a median compensation of $450k

Ansatz

Who? Ansatz is one of the many very niche HFT firms. On forum sites like Blind, it has a reputation for being secretive, with quants and engineers clamoring to know more. There are many firms like this in the space but Ansatz is known to be one of the best paying.

Hiring? Ansatz appears to have made just two hires in the past year. Quant developer Roman Rubanenko was an algorithm engineer at Hudson River Trading and Andrew Campbell is an ex-Citadel strat that was most recently head of data science at eCommerce startup OpenStore.

Pay? It's very hard to find exact figures here, naturally. One former employee said online that "the entire company was made up of a handful of people in their early thirties and making millions annually."

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Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

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AUTHORAlex McMurray Editor

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