Carnegie Mellon University

Xiaofan Li

Xiaofan Paul Li

Options Trader - Citadel Securities

When did you first become interested in quantitative finance?

I always enjoyed solving quantitative problems and was also really interested in the financial market. I was looking for a career where I could bring all of my interests together, which ultimately led me to quantitative finance.

What are some of your daily roles/responsibilities?

I primarily focus on US Index Options trading, including options pricing, algorithmic trading and position management. Outside of trading hours, I enjoy working with some of the industry’s top performers on improving our algorithmic strategies and trading systems. I also spend a significant amount of time analyzing historical trading data and coming up with new ideas for improvements based on the analysis. I also work on tools to improve trading efficiency and automate the decision making process.

What do you enjoy most about your career?

Quantitative trading is an area where I can leverage my interest in both quantitative problem solving and the financial market. In trading, it’s always exciting that every day is different, and you get immediate feedback from the market on your performance. It is also fulfilling to consistently improve your trading strategies and systems through extensive data analysis and problem solving.

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

You need a solid quantitative background, which helps with data analysis, trading strategy development and automation. You also need a strong interest in the market, which helps you to be more knowledgeable on different products and different types of trading strategies. It is a high-pressure environment, so you need to be able to multi-task and possess strong communication skills to be an effective team player and achieve the best results for the team.

What would you say to someone considering the MSCF program?

The career services, helpful faculty and customized curriculum make the MSCF program different from the rest. Students who are interested in the program should have strong quantitative backgrounds and be eager to break into the financial industry. Those with industry experience and an ability to hone their technical skills will also do well in the program.

How has the MSCF program helped you in your career?

I studied mathematics, statistics and computer science as an undergraduate, but it wasn’t until I graduated from the MSCF program that I really learned how to put them together in the financial industry. The options and statistics courses were especially helpful while interviewing for jobs and paved the foundation for my career in options trading. The Speaker Series and alumni network offered great insider perspectives to better understand different career options and helped me develop my interests. The career service was also very helpful with job hunting and interviews.

What is your advice to current MSCF students?  

In addition to studying hard, make sure you use MSCF as a place to learn about your career interests and what really suits you. Spend time talking to as many people as possible, and find a career path you might be interested in. Network with industry professionals and build your skillsets, accordingly.