Andrew Killion is the CEO of Akuna Capital, a proprietary trading firm with a specialised focus on the emerging FinTech market. We asked him a couple questions regarding Akuna Capital, what it takes to be a trader, and how to prepare for an internship/ graduate role there.
Akuna Capital is a young firm, with 90% of our growth ahead of us and a passion for emerging FinTech innovation. Our competitors are fairly established, having been in the market for about 20-30 years, whereas Akuna is going into its 6th year. Our youth is our strength as we are constantly evolving with a start-up mentality and believe everyone can make an impact on our growing firm.
At Akuna, you get to enjoy a good work-life balance, good pay, working with smart people and a really open and collaborative environment. We place an emphasis on the social side of work. We often have sporting games and Happy Hour drinks with the team. We also have our annual company trips, last year we went to New Orleans, before that Austin, and Las Vegas.
We also provide countless opportunities to meet people within the firm so even those new hires moving to Chicago without knowing anyone will quickly build up their social network. In saying that, while most of these elements can all be found at our major competitors to varying degrees, our growth profile cannot.
You have to be numerically fast for trading, that’s key. You need to be able to solve problems, work with algorithms, all while multitasking. You could be discussing strategy with your boss and have the phones ringing at the same time, yet, you still have to be across all your screens to make sure you don’t miss your next trade.
Our career progression is accommodating and quick here because the business retains its entrepreneurial, start-up feel. We have a young team, with lots of opportunities to take, dependent on individual skills. There is scope to choose your path, especially with our rapid growth. At this stage, we are still seeing many people become equity partners in their first three to five years with Akuna, approximately 1 in 5 staff are partners and that ratio continues to strengthen to 1 in 4.
For traders, there is a 9-month training program that you go through. The first 3 months are quite theory heavy, learning about options and risk with a lot of time spent in simulated environments during this time too. Then you start rotating on desks, giving different trading products and strategies a go, before settling on a desk full time. In comparison, quants and developers have already spent their time in university studying and fine tuning the skills that we require for them to add value to the business, so they consequently have a shorter ramp up period.
I think this depends on what part of the business you go into, but I’ve outlined a few things below: (from website)
Many of our Developers have read and strongly recommend “Code Complete” by Steve McConnell, “The Pragmatic Programmer” by Andrew Hunt and David Thomas, “Principles of Compiler Design” by Alfred V. Aho and Jeffrey D. Ullman, “The C++ Programming Language” by Bjarne Stroustrup, “C++ in Depth” by Jon Skeet, and “Effective Modern C++” by Scott Meyers.
Many of our Quants have read and strongly recommend “Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship” by Robert C. Martin, “Statistics Done Wrong: The Woefully Complete Guide” by Alex Reinhart, and “Python for Data Analysis: Data Wrangling with Pandas, NumPy, and python” by Wes McKinney.
Many of our Traders have read and strongly recommend “Options Volatility and Pricing” by Sheldon Natenberg. Although not strictly related to trading, many of our Traders also enjoyed “Fooled by Randomness” by Nassim Taleb and “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman.
I sort of fell into this job. I was always a competitive person, and loved games and chess. Coming out of UNSW with a Bachelor’s degree, I hadn’t heard of options or trading markets. My best mate, who was a trader himself at Optiver, thought that I’d be really good for the job, which I didn’t really consider until another mate told me the same thing. So, I went in and did the initial testing, and basically went on from there.
Cycling, running, keeping fit, and spending time with my friends and family. I like to race my bike, so I compete in some triathlons. We entered a few Akuna Capital teams into a triathlon in Chicago and I did the cycling leg for the winning Akuna team. Every now and then, I also like to go watch the Bulls play after a day on the desk.
On the work side, it all kind of worked out in the end, so I wouldn’t want to correct or advise on anything, because I could’ve easily been in a different/safer job right now or ruined all the success I’ve had in trading, even though I kind of fell in to this industry by accident. If I was to give advice in general, I’d say be the person building the robot, not being replaced by the robot. At Akuna the traders work with the developers and quants to build robots and are in the driver’s seat, and have a lot of fun doing it. ‘Akuna’ is an aboriginal word meaning flowing water and much like our namesake I believe the nature of a trader’s role is changing, yet it’s evolving with new technology rather than being replaced by it.