Most of our quants have a computer-science background. They can code in either Python or C++. Whereas on the discretionary side most of them come from a more traditional investment-banking background and are digging into 8-Ks and company fundamentals and being able to look at companies from a bottom-up perspective as compared to trying to use many different data sets to help predict the prices of stocks.
-Ryan Tolkin CIO Schonfeld Strategic Advisors
As the old joke says, “There are only two types of people – those that type others and those who do not.” However, this dichotomy may be applicable for current money management. There are two camps of analysis, the quants who are looking for repeatable behavior in data and the discretionary analysts who are looking for unique or special situations across markets. The quant plays the averages and the probabilities while the other places value on what cannot be counted and handicapped. One focuses on the numbers while the other looks for the firm story as a thesis for investing.
Is one better than the other? I would say that it depends on the problem to be solved and the market to be analyzed, or whether the focus is on counting or the focus is on uniqueness. There is a continuum on research processing. At one extreme will be the focus on large data and an analysis of statistical relationships based on counting versus the other extreme where there is little data that is countable and research requires looking for similarity or a limited number of cases.
An example of a countable market will be the mortgage-backed securities. There is a lot of data to measure relationships. An example of a countable style will be statistical arbitrage. The alternative is a style that is based on “newness” or a market that has limited data A case-based approach is more applicable for analysis of tech firms and an example of a discretionary style based on uniqueness may be deep value. The approach to research and analysis is affected by the choice of markets and style. In case-based approach, there is a premium on story-telling.
The research approach matches the sale and market. There are reasons for quants focus on some markets and investment-banking types focusing on others; however, an interesting intersection will be those researchers that can marry numbers with story-telling.