An Interview with Nick Timmer | Da Vinci Derivatives

Magdalena Skrzycki
29 maart 2021

Could you please introduce yourself?

My name is Nick Timmer. I am 23, and I have just completed my studies last year in May. I have a Bachelor's degree in Econometrics and a Master’s in Actuarial studies. I have graduated from the University of Groningen. Since last August, I have been working as a quantitative analyst at Da Vinci Derivatives. As a quant analyst, I focus on data research and building mathematical models. In that process, I work closely with the traders to assist them in developing new strategies that traders can implement effectively in the market.

During your studies, were you involved in any student associations?

Yes, I was an active member of VESTING, the student association for Econometrics in Groningen. I was a part of the Data Analytics Team. In my experience, the courses I took at university were very theoretical, so engaging in a study association provided a practical side that I missed in my studies. I found that working with companies and doing data analysis for them was very helpful to prepare me for my future career. I would definitely recommend joining such associations to learn how to apply the theoretical skills you acquire at university.

What skills did you develop during your studies that helped you become a competitive candidate for a position in a trading company?

If you have a background in econometrics and you want to work in a trading company, you could aim to pursue a career both as a trader or a quant analyst. The requirements for these two roles are pretty similar, the main difference is that traders are typically people who enjoy executing trading strategies and taking fast decisions, and they thrive under pressure. Quant analysts are passionate about mathematics and like to do in-depth research modelling and equipping the traders with the right tools to implement trading strategies. To have a competitive CV, I would recommend engaging in extracurricular activities that show affinity with the world of finance and trading.  For the quant role in particular, programming is a big part of it and the mandatory courses I had in the university didn’t contain a lot of it. I would say that if you want to be a competitive candidate, it would be very helpful to do this on your own or join additional courses with a focus on programming. If it comes to the affinity for numbers, you either have it or you don’t, but programming is something you can definitely learn if you want to pursue a career in trading.

Why did you choose to work at Da Vinci?

I’ve always had an affinity for mathematics and programming, so I knew I wanted to pursue something that would allow me to combine both of them. That’s why I wanted to work as a quant analyst. When it comes to the choice of the company, I was mainly looking at smaller firms with an open and dynamic environment. I like that if I have a good idea, I can just discuss it with my team and, if it is a solid idea, implement it in a matter of hours. There is no hierarchy, and I have direct access to the most senior people in the organization. It is very encouraging to be able to contribute to the company and know that my work matters.

Also, the application process was very smooth. There are a couple of different rounds in the application process, but most of them you can do online. In fact, I applied for DaVinci while still being a student at university. I only had to come to the office for the final stage. That’s very convenient, especially if you are still a student.

Could you please describe a typical day at Da Vinci?

It would be difficult to describe a typical day since every day at Da Vinci is different, which makes it a lot of fun. Usually, we come to the office at around 8:30 a.m. We start the day with a meeting with the quants and the traders. We discuss the news that happened in the morning and during the night. Trading begins at 9 a.m., when the market opens. I am a part of the quant analyst team and as I mentioned, we are responsible for developing new models and back testing them. We are the point of contact between traders and software engineers. We are constantly discussing with the traders about improving current strategies or introducing new ones. In the process of implementing new approaches, we also work closely with the software engineers. The working hours are very flexible - you can leave when you are satisfied with the work you did for the day. These are the main points of what our every-day work looks like.

It sounds like your job includes a lot of teamwork. What is it like during the pandemic?

Most of us are working from home, and we only come back to the office if it is necessary. I’ve started working at Da Vinci during the pandemic, so it was an unusual beginning for me, especially getting to know co-workers through video channels. Normally, different events outside of work would also be organized, and that is a great opportunity to socialize with your new colleagues. Now, it’s more difficult, but we still organize virtual game nights within the company and even across teams of researchers from other trading companies. I think I’ve ended up settling quite well, but I’m definitely looking forward to working more at the office. Even though we can discuss everything virtually and work flows normally, it is always nicer to be around colleagues in person.

Could you tell me about the company culture at Da Vinci?

Although it is a Dutch company, it is very diverse. At the moment, we have 15 nationalities and only 40 employees. In my opinion, what distinguishes us from others is that we all want to be the best at what we do. All of the traders, researchers, and software engineers are very motivated. I think it is important that if you have a good idea, you can take a stance, and you are free to implement it. When we start working, we have a designated mentor. They guide you in the right direction and give you feedback so you can further improve. This gives us the opportunity to learn from some of the best in the field. It’s a very supportive and open environment, which allows you to excel and be free in what you do.

How has the company been developing?

The company was founded in 2015, and was initially located at Beursplein 5, which has historically been an important place for trading. We’ve been growing successfully since then. A couple of months ago we moved to a bigger office in Amsterdam Zuid, the financial heart of the Netherlands. We are constantly looking for new employees and we are expecting to expand. While we want to grow further, we do not wish to become a company of hundreds of people. We believe it is important to maintain the family feel, the fast pace of the processes and the open culture that encourages new ideas. As part of the growth plans, we are also aiming at open new offices in Asia and the US. This would be a great opportunity for the employees who are interested in working at these locations.

Do you have any advice for students who would like to pursue a career in a trading company?

You need to have an affinity with numbers as well as with financial markets. You should also be very motivated and driven to be the best at what you do. I would suggest going for the graduate trader role if you enjoy taking calculated risks and beating the market, or a quant analyst if you like in-depth analysis and programming. Both roles don’t require any prior experience, just the right set of skills, which is something you have if you study econometrics. Then, I would advise you to just go for it and apply.

Thank you for spending your time with us! It was a pleasure to talk to you.