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A start-up that is beating Wall Street's giants is searching for the next great quant trader

Key Points
  • XTX Markets, a tiny algorithmic trading firm that has disrupted the biggest Wall Street banks in foreign exchange, is searching for quants.
  • The start-up is holding an online contest, with $100,000 in prize money up for grabs, to find five new data scientists.
  • "It's tricky to find exceptional quant talent," says XTX executive Ekaterina Radkovskaya. "We're not looking for the 1%, we're looking for the 0.01%, and finding such candidates is a very long and difficult process."
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XTX Markets, a tiny algorithmic trading firm that has taken Wall Street by storm, is searching for some exceptional minds.

The start-up is holding an online contest to find up to five new data scientists. Aspiring quants can split $100,000 in prize money and potentially join the London-based company, according to Ekaterina Radkovskaya, an XTX manager running the project.

"It's tricky to find exceptional quant talent," Radkovskaya said in an interview. "We're not looking for the 1%, we're looking for the 0.01%, and finding such candidates is a very long and difficult process."

The rise of four-year old XTX has been unusually swift. Coming from nowhere a few years ago, the 118-person company has steadily climbed the ranks of electronic market makers, displacing huge institutions in the process.

According to the latest annual Euromoney survey, XTX has 11.5% of the electronic spot foreign exchange market, taking the lead from J.P. Morgan Chase. (Some traders say the survey isn't always accurate because it requires clients to submit figures.)

XTX has done that without traditional human traders, employing mathematical models trained on huge data sets to connect buyers and sellers. The start-up now handles more than $150 billion in trades every day.

"Virtually nobody's heard of them, but they've disrupted the traditional foreign exchange market, ruled by J.P. Morgan, Citigroup and Deutsche Bank, similar to the way Virtu and Citadel have disrupted global equity markets, " said Larry Tabb, founder of research firm Tabb Group.

The online challenge has two parts: a multiple-choice section testing theoretical knowledge and then one requiring the creation of a stock forecasting model that will be scored against an XTX team, Radkovskaya said. It's open from July 1 to Sept. 30.

While XTX will advertise the contest at universities, the trading firm is hoping that anyone with an interest in data science and machine learning will apply. Those who are offered a job can expect "highly competitive" compensation, Radkovskaya said.

"If the candidate has a brilliant mind, we don't mind whether they are about to" finish a degree or are a professional with years of experience, she said.