What it does: Proprietary trading
Staff Stats:150 in Australia and approximately 2,000+ globally
The good bits: Fantastic corporate culture and great perks
The not so good bits: Demanding environment - everyone expected to positively impact results
Hiring grads with degrees in: Engineering, Maths, IT & Computer Sciences; Sciences
The SIG Story
SIG was founded by a group of friends who went to university together along the Susquehanna River at the State University of New York in Binghamton.
These friends enjoyed game theory, statistics and probabilities and playing cards. Not long after finishing university they realized that there were a lot of similarities between these interests and trading options. Soon they were applying the same quantitative decision making techniques used in gaming to the capital markets. Thus, critical SIG values that hold true today: rational decision making, calculating expectancy and hedging risk, have their origins back in Binghamton, along the Susquehanna River.
SIG trades almost every financial product across markets globally, with trading technology that has long been amongst the most sophisticated in the industry.
SIG describes itself as “a global quantitative trading firm founded with an entrepreneurial mindset and a rigorous analytical approach to decision making”. The firm commits its own capital to “trade financial products around the world”. Its staff – in particular, traders, quants, developers and systems engineers – work collaboratively to develop and implement trading strategies. SIG builds most of its trading technology from scratch, and are the leaders and innovators in “high performance, low latency trading”.
SIG’s culture is very well aligned with their approach to business. They care about bringing the best and the brightest thinkers into the business. The dress is casual. They care about how you think not how you dress. Unusual for a financial trading firm, they are not constrained by traditional approaches, unnecessary bureaucracy or ‘red tape’, which means that everyone across the business is able to create innovative solutions to challenging problems, every day. The environment is highly collaborative and dynamic. It is common to see software developers, traders and quants debating ideas in the kitchen or huddled around a trader’s workstation discussing the best way to overcome an issue or improve a trading idea.
SIG does not actively publicise its social inclusion policies or activity, although it is obvious when looking at their social media activity that they are actively involved in a multitude of social causes. They let their employees drive their social agenda through supporting what’s important to their employees through the SIG Donation Matching Program. They also support various social activities, both locally and globally, throughout the year, such as Christmas appeals, charity health and fitness challenges, and donating all of their leftover food (they provide a fully stocked kitchen and catered lunch every day) to local homeless shelters.
The Recruitment Process
Globally, SIG seeks to recruit “intellectually curious and motivated students” who are also communicative, detail-orientated, and team players. The firm’s recruitment efforts focus on finding graduates to work primarily in trading, technology and quant research.
If you want to work at the Sydney office, which serves as SIG’s Asia-Pacific HQ, you’ll need a STEM or Actuarial Studies background. You’ll also be expected to demonstrate “exceptional analytical and probability skills [and] an interest in financial markets”. There appear to be two grad program options currently available at the Sydney office: the Assistant Trader program and a Graduate Developers program.
The Assistant Trader program is regarded as one of the best of its kind in the world. It involves working “in a collaborative and collegial environment while learning to make positive expectancy decisions in financial markets”. If you are hired as an assistant trader in Sydney, you spend your first six months in Sydney learning game theory, quantitative concepts, and understanding Asian markets. You then head off to the global HQ near Philadelphia, where you live (living expenses paid for by SIG) for 9-12 months and participate in an education program run by one of the firm’s founders, along with three senior traders. Assistant traders are taught about “decision science, game theory and capital markets”. They get real-world experience working within a trading team and also engage in ‘mock trading’ which teaches how to “make trading decisions by simulating the trading floor of an open-outcry exchange”.
The Graduate Developer program involves being mentored by “some of the best technologists in the world”. Under their tutelage, you’ll develop and execute cutting-edge trading systems and infrastructure.
If you don’t make contact with SIG at your campus career fair, you can look for assistant trader or graduate developer positions at the Sydney office here. If you’ve got the right background, you can expect to do two or three phone interviews followed by an onsite, face-to-face one. Expect to be quizzed on some or all of the following: game theory, logic, mathematics, probability, programming principles and statistics.
SIG doesn’t “post salary ranges externally” but you’re unlikely to have anything to complain about. Starting salaries are reported to be pleasingly high and it’s possible to supplement them with performance-related bonuses.
Benefits vary depending on location but, again, you can expect to be well looked after. You’ll get generous leave, including paid maternity and paternity leave, as well as invitations to a lot of exciting events throughout the year. Plus, there’s free breakfast and lunch, along with access to a “fully stocked kitchen with nutritious snack options”, as well as an onsite gym. (SIG’s Sydney office is in the buzzy Barangaroo district. It includes an 80-seat cafeteria, where staff are served a catered lunch every day, a games room and an onsite gym with views across Sydney Harbour.)
SIG offers a career-related education assistance program that can “help you grow professionally”. The standard career progression is to go from assistant trader to trader to desk lead. It’s possible to do this in under a decade, if you are highly motivated.
The vibe of the place
In 2013 SIG was ranked the best financial service company to work for by Forbes. The firm’s success is almost entirely dependent on attracting and retaining top talent. Unsurprisingly, that talent is treated well with incredible facilities and fun employee outings. There’s also the opportunity to attend major sporting events and participate in office “volleyball, basketball, soccer, bocce [and] bowling” teams.
SIG’s founders were keen poker players and that card game has long been central to the firm’s culture. SIG’s leadership encourages staff who aren’t already poker players to learn the game, believing it teaches valuable lessons about making good decisions under conditions of uncertainty. The firm hosts an annual internal (No Limit Texas Hold’em) poker tournament and employs two of the world’s best poker players (both of whom are integral to the assistant trader education program).
Star Rating: 4.6 stars
From the Employer:
"Founded in 1987, SIG has grown from an options trading firm in the United States to one of the world’s largest privately held financial institutions. Today, with offices around the world, we trade almost every major financial product. We are recognised for our disciplined and quantitative trading approach and our leading-edge trading systems. Our Asia Pacific headquarters was established here in Sydney in 1998, and we now have over 130 employees working in Trading, Technology, Quantitative Research and Operations.
If you ask employees why they like SIG, they’ll almost always say the same thing: the people. We like spending time with each other both in and out of the office. We have fun improving our decision making skills and analytical thinking by playing poker, we like to go out in the city, and we enjoy heading out to the cricket, fun runs and festivities throughout the year. Each July and December we also get together for a well-deserved formal celebration.
Students with a background in STEM degrees, exceptional analytical and probability skills, and an interest in financial markets, are invited to apply for the following programs:
Assistant Trader Program
Work within a trading team, to source information that may affect trading strategies and analyse potential trading opportunities. Learn about making trading decisions, and participate in game theory education sessions. Successful Assistant Traders have the opportunity to work in our global head office for 6 - 9 months to undertake a comprehensive trader training program before returning to Sydney as a fully fledged trader!
Work with our world class team of computer programmers, developing and supporting trading systems and infrastructure. Learn about developing and executing cutting edge technology, and be mentored by some of the best technologists in the world!"