Carnegie Mellon University

Josh Freeland, MSCF/MBA '07

What triggered your interest in quantitative finance?

It was during my undergrad studies when we looked at options pricing and portfolio theory. Shortly thereafter, I was given a copy of the book, “The Predictors”, about one of the first quant trading teams working in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It became clear that the most interesting aspects of finance to me lay in building tools to identify trading opportunities and underlying market features.

What are some of your daily responsibilities? What do you enjoy most?

I work as a market maker for Investment Grade corporate bonds where I trade the retail, consumer and healthcare sectors for HSBC in the U.S. I also work with our developers and vendors to develop HSBC’s electronic trading capabilities in the U.S. corporate market. Trading provides a tremendous level of autonomy and rewards looking at data in creative ways. I am fortunate to have this level of responsibility where the main requirements are following global economic developments, building analytical tools and managing risk.

Why did you become interested in this career path?

For me, trading is a perfect combination of problem solving, data analysis and current events. I was initially drawn to trading during finance classes in undergrad and found that interest only grew as friends shared their stories of jobs on the Mercantile Exchange or Board of Trade in Chicago.

What are the skills required to be successful in this field?

There are probably as many ways to be successful in the industry as there are personality types. I see creative analysis, discipline, interpersonal skills, open-mindedness, curiosity, political acumen and programming skills as meaningful advantages for different people. I’d hazard a guess that we will all only go as far as our weakest link in that subset. 

How did the MSCF program prepare you for this career?  

The MSCF program provided me with a fantastic toolkit. It equipped me with an intuitive sense of how financial instruments would respond to various changes in the marketplace and why those changes occurred. It offered a range of avenues for parsing information and looking for the linkages between different securities. And importantly, the program required us to implement these skills repeatedly providing a level of confidence that only comes with practice.

What classes have been the most helpful for your career?

Stochastic Calculus was critical for me in providing the intuitive sense of how financial instruments respond to changes in the market. Statistics, Statistical Arbitrage and Time Series Analysis continue to influence my thinking about how to best approach the bond market, and the programming classes made building useful tools second nature.

What are your future career goals?

Luckily for me, the corporate bond market has been one of the slowest to automate and move towards quantitative investing strategies. I believe there are still myriad opportunities to apply intelligent quantitative analysis to trading and investing in corporate bonds.

What would you say to a prospective student considering the MSCF program?

Spend a lot of time thinking about your personality and what type of work you’re most likely to thrive in. It’s easy to find yourself pursuing opportunities that seem exciting or coveted but don’t fit when you arrive. Spend an outsized amount of time on process. The leeway Wall Street provides in how you meet your objectives is a blessing and a curse. My career has benefitted immensely from building routines and regular practices that keep me from having to reinvent the wheel every day. Learn as much as you can about psychology and physiology. Even the most highly automated strategies are built, run and owned by people, subject to the same emotions and stress that have always driven markets.