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Technical Skills - CAIA-related industry roles

I want to ask active members on the forum what technical skills are critical for success in an AI role in both a general sense and for specific tiers and industries. Coding languages, platforming, extent of use, etc.

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@highbeta :)

Investorman wrote:

@highbeta :)

Anything related to Structured Products you will need proper programming skills - mostly for scripting (Python & Macros VBA) and interpretating and creating basic algorithms (usually in C or C#). Beyond that, it is always useful to know SQL so you can manipulate a relational database. So in summary, definitely VBA and SQL and at least Python or C/C#. Most Structured Products analysts are really computer science graduates and are lacking on the business end.

Hedge Funds: Top U.S. Ivy league school. Heavy math background and programming, as per above. Much more focus on the business-end and strategy.

Private Equity: usually recruited straight out of an MBA. Doesn’t have to be a top tier school. Solid accounting skills, CFA enrollment, CBV is helpful, too. Less focus on the mathematical side.

I have no real interaction with people in Real Assets, like I.P, but I know Real Estate is big on the CBV charter, great modelling skills, and a very in-depth background in how the real estate industry works.

All in all, programming skills for sure, modelling skills, and most importantly, the gift of the gab. If you can’t get work at a major institution then lower your expectations and go for a startup or role in the middle or backoffice until you can crossover.

In your opinion, what’s the best way for someone (experienced PM) to acquire these these skills (other than an undergrad in this area)?

schrodinger wrote:

In your opinion, what’s the best way for someone (experienced PM) to acquire these these skills (other than an undergrad in this area)?

SQL can be learned in a weekend (or less) with a good YouTube video - I am totally not joking. All you need to know are the basic functions.

VBA will take some time but is more intuitive than say a true programming language like C or C#. At any rate, you can simply learn Python and VBA by taking a continuing education night course at your local community collage…Should cost under 1k per course and last a few weeks. A lot of them are now taught online (which I am not crazy about).

My advice is definitely do self teaching/YouTube for SQL using Access as your platform. You could also use Oracle MySQL as it is free.

Do VBA next because it is the next logical step in stepping up your excel scripting game and then move on to Python as your first true programming language.

I learned C and C# at MIT in my undergrad and haven’t really seen good stand alone courses on it for non computer science graduates…there’s a lot more theory that goes into it and it seems that more and more people are demanding Python. Avoid these 5-10k “boot camps” that teach some Android developer language which isn’t at all used in finance.

I definitely think a real college course is the way to go since you can put that on your resume. So many people say they know VBA or Python but they don’t have any criteria to back it up (unless they have a math or com sci degree).

Keep in mind, it is RARE nowadays to find anyone in the algo/hedge fund/structured product front or middle office that isn’t a math geek. Most of them don’t know much about finance or economics. Approaching it from the other side and knowing the appropriate coding skills will bring a lot of business value.

If you are already in the industry and have a connection in the structured products departments of your firm I would strongly suggest reaching out to them to get an idea of the kind of problems they are trying to solve on a daily basis, this way you can replicate or at least think about this while you are learning the language.

It used to be that an entry level job required solid excel skills, and by that I just mean pivot tables and professional report creation with all the functions. You really need to know SQL as a lot of jobs involve pulling data from a relational database. Putting SQL on your resume also opens you up to a different (albeit still beginner) salary bracket. VBA is the next step above, and then of course Python, and C. I see a lot of Python jobs in the +120k territory no problem.

For a PM specifically I don’t know how much value it would be for you to learn all of this, but VBA and SQL are a definite plus.

Thanks for the info! Have you tried Lynda.com for training on VBA, SQL? The problem i find when going through a lot of the courses is I have not had to use them in any of my jobs so far, even finance or IB jobs barely use coding. Any good places or websites that have good practical examples or “fake work” that makes the learning more practical? I have those vba for dummies books but there is a lot of text to read to get a simple concept that a video could do better.

Investorman wrote:

Thanks for the info! Have you tried Lynda.com for training on VBA, SQL? The problem i find when going through a lot of the courses is I have not had to use them in any of my jobs so far, even finance or IB jobs barely use coding. Any good places or websites that have good practical examples or “fake work” that makes the learning more practical? I have those vba for dummies books but there is a lot of text to read to get a simple concept that a video could do better.

SQL: I am sure you can download a relational database file off the net and then use basic commands to manipulate its data. I think even Excel 2016 has a database function where you can rub an SQL query in it.

VBA: Only really comes in handy if you have a very data-driven role. I was a statistician for a year and after exhausting conventional excel formulas to automate some reporting I had to turn to VBA to get the job done. Keep in mind, one always tries to do things on the most simple language; it is only when conventional techniques fail does one need to turn to this, or of they are truly in a programming analyst/quant role. You may have better luck asking this on the CFA forum. I would hear the question more towards those in Risk Management.

The question is what kind of AI? If you’re talking hedge funds (which is not as “alternative” as it used to be”) then yes, programming skills are definitely valuable at some shops that utilize quantitative models and all sorts of derivative securities. If you’re talking PE, then banking skills and business evaluation are much more desirable. Nowadays, a good analyst will need to be solid with Excel. Most people going into PE from banking will have ok Excel skills (most bankers think they are Excel gods but mention VBA and you immediately know that they’re not). Personally, I think VBA and SQL are very valuable and cut down on a lot of tasks by automating them. I use VBA a fair amount but not as heavily as I used to.

Ramos4rm, CFA, CAIA

+1 to everyone here.

For us, only the quant guys we have use programming. A couple of other PMs make use of VBA but bulk of traders use knowledge, intuition and Excel formulas. If you have a number of repetitive analysis or similar funds, then I can see a need for VBA/SQL, but we don’t. The guys with model driven trading have their programs set, so some knowledge to read, tweak, and upgrade may prove useful.

For Sales obviously, the gift of gab + CAIA seems more useful in raising investor money and keeping it.

For Middle Office function, knowledge and data manipulation skills wins. CFA nice but all you need is CSC retention plus some common sense to price, unless your company software does everything for you. CAIA added zero to my pricing & valuation work.

For modeling, same as Ramos, better luck in CFA forum. Even if in AI or HF shop, it’s the CFA guys that are discussing the technicals.

collegedropout wrote:

+1 to everyone here.

For us, only the quant guys we have use programming. A couple of other PMs make use of VBA but bulk of traders use knowledge, intuition and Excel formulas. If you have a number of repetitive analysis or similar funds, then I can see a need for VBA/SQL, but we don’t. The guys with model driven trading have their programs set, so some knowledge to read, tweak, and upgrade may prove useful.

For Sales obviously, the gift of gab + CAIA seems more useful in raising investor money and keeping it.

For Middle Office function, knowledge and data manipulation skills wins. CFA nice but all you need is CSC retention plus some common sense to price, unless your company software does everything for you. CAIA added zero to my pricing & valuation work.

For modeling, same as Ramos, better luck in CFA forum. Even if in AI or HF shop, it’s the CFA guys that are discussing the technicals.

What kind of middle office jobs are we talking about? The CSC (and any CSI course for that matter) is retail sales focused (financial advisors).

It really depends on the product, company and role. I work with things that you could say are “structured” products, but have not programmed in years; there are other people who do that full time. Obviously, having the technical knowledge does help you navigate the environment though. Other people (sales, marketing, structuring) have no technical skills whatsoever. However, I am not sure if they really know what they are doing either, so that might not be a good thing. It helps if you are a hot chick also.

Where hedge funds are concerned - some use a lot of programming, and others just have people who read financial statements. So, it really depends.

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