Thursday, May 16, 2013

From CERN To Goldman Sachs

When I read this article, my first reaction was "Is this new?"

This news article is describing the case of a CERN physicist being hired by Goldman Sachs, thus changing his career from high energy physics (presumably) to quantitative finance.

Ryan Buckingham, a particle physicist with a PhD from Oxford University, spent three and a half years at CERN before joining Goldman Sachs in London as an associate in the credit and mortgage structuring team earlier this month. He declined to speak to us and Goldman didn’t return our request for comment, but it seems that the path from CERN to investment banking is a well trodden one.

“CERN is the place to find top PhDs in physical sciences and computing,” said Dominic Connor, head of quantitative finance recruitment firm P&D Quant Recruitment. “Working at CERN is one step up from having any old PhD. There a lot of people who have doctoral degrees, but you know that if someone has worked at CERN they will be very good indeed.”

Buckingham isn’t the only CERN alumni working in finance. Alexey Afonin, a vice president in strats and modelling at Morgan Stanley used to work there too. So did Anne Richards, the chief investment officer at Aberdeen Asset Management. So did Nikolaos Prezas, a quantitative researcher at J.P. Morgan and plenty of others. Most people seem to work at CERN early in their careers, and then move into finance.

Which is the reason I am puzzled at why this latest "acquisition" by the financial world making it into the news. Especially here in the US where funding for high energy physics is so crappy, a lot of PhDs in this field have to go look for employment elsewhere. Most of the people who work at CERN are not guaranteed at a long-term employment. Postdocs, for example, don't get to stay for as long as they want. And with their knowledge in statistical analysis and computational analysis skills, it is not a surprise that the field of quantitative analysis would swallow these people up.


1 comment:

Hamish said...

Since the crash of 2007 rocket scientists have been out of vogue because they (rightly or wrongly) were blamed for much of the chaos caused by mortgage securitization. This looks like an attempt at rehabilitation...good for the employment prospects of physicists, but is it good for finance?