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Intelligent Trading Summit: The Human Resources Conundrum

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Statistics presented by MathWorks at this week’s A-Team Group Intelligent Trading Summit suggest a significant skills gap among UK graduates entering the financial services sector and a need to develop fresh skills in areas such as data science.

Presenting the results of the company’s skills research project among 43 buy-side firms, Steve Wilcockson, industry manager of financial services at MathWorks, said 62% of respondents reported a skills gap affecting the financial sector, with 34% saying the gap has worsened over the past three years and 53% saying it has stayed the same.

Solutions suggested to close the gap between skills required of graduates by industry and those that they actually possess include the integration of real-world problems in academic curricula, a solution favoured by 44% of respondents; encouragement for university students to combine the study of IT and maths, favoured by 37%; and provision of a stronger focus on IT and maths in secondary schools, favoured by 40%.

Beyond statistics, discussion among the research participants demonstrated a need for improved graduate skills in maths, statistics and data analysis, as well as the need to combine multiple science, technology, engineering and maths subjects with a view to merging theory and practice, and creating graduate capability in developing and implementing insightful data analytics.

Focussing on capital markets, Wilcockson outlined two phases of trading covering the development of trades from strategy modelling to back testing and live trading from data management to decision making and execution. Describing the skills required in each phase, Wilcockson said: “Development and testing require an understanding of data, modelling and analytics, as well as market knowledge and soft skills such as creative thinking and critical thinking to identify what could go wrong with a model. Live trading requires similar skills, including an understanding of data, testing, software and hardware, and application programming interfaces. It also requires critical thinking and creative thinking. These requirements boil down to key skills in data, mathematics, computer science, market and domain knowledge, and personal skills. There are courses covering these subjects, but none cover them all together.”

Resolving this problem, MathWorks argues that multidisciplinary education will develop expertise in data science and collaboration between mathematics and computer science. The company also suggests the best skills development will come from engaging children in computing at a young age and immersing both school and university students in project-based learning. As Wilcockson concluded: “Closing the skills gap is not just about hard skills, but about encouraging students to think in a wider way.”

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