I had the pleasure to interview Kasper van de Kamer who is a trader working at Da Vinci, a trading company whose main, well designed office is located in Amsterdam South. When I arrived at the sixth floor, I was amazed by the number of computer screens I could see and the dynamic atmosphere in the office. Let us dive into the world of trading at Da Vinci.
1. Can you tell us a bit about your background and your studies?
My name is Kasper van de Kamer. I am 23 years old, from Alkmaar. Since I was young, I had a strong interest in mathematics, plus I was also quite good at it! It was obvious to me to apply these skills to economic relationships, so, after graduating high school, I chose to do my Bachelor in Econometrics and Operations Research in Groningen. I really liked living in Groningen as a student, so I decided to stay for my Master's too. For my Master’s, I specialised in Actuarial Science with the quantitative finance track and graduated last year. In November 2022, I began working for Da Vinci. I recently finished my training program and am now working as a trader on the Brazil Desk. The training program consists of in-depth theory and simulated trading sessions, which really help you transition from a university environment to a professional one.
2. How did you find Da Vinci?
I always found the trading world fascinating, so I searched for different trading companies and Da Vinci was one of the first ones that I came across. I was drawn to Da Vinci as it is a relatively small company as opposed to a big corporate firm. After researching the company, I noticed that they were hosting their annual Da Vinci Discovery Day (DDD) so I decided to apply. I got invited and spent the day immersed in the world of Da Vinci. During the event we played some market making games, learned about options theory and got the opportunity to connect with members of the different teams. Everyone was very nice and open, and I liked the working atmosphere so I decided to apply. To prepare for the application process I reached out to Da Vinci and was invited on a one-on-one visit to the office where I got to spend a few hours shadowing Vidit, one of the co-founders. This was a great experience to learn more about what a trader at Da Vinci does and made me even more eager to join.
3. What made you interested in them?
There were two main things that made me interested in Da Vinci over other companies in the sector. Firstly, after graduating from my Master's, I was anxious to keep on learning.In this company, I am surrounded by experienced seniors, so I can continuously learn from them. This means that my learning curve is bigger than it would have been if I had joined other companies. The support that I am given by my colleagues is great, they encourage me to be the best that I can be. Secondly, I was drawn to the company culture here at Da Vinci. We are not just colleagues, but also friends. We are one big team, collaborating together to reach a shared goal: to be the best prop (proprietary) trading house.
4. Can you describe what Da Vinci is?
Da Vinci is a prop trading company. We make profits by buying and selling options (derivatives) in the financial markets. While we do not have clients, we add value to the markets by increasing liquidity and making them more efficient. I would describe us as being an encouraging and exciting trading company, where you can grow fast. Da Vinci is a small company, so we all know each other. With around 65 employees, it is great to be able to connect with your colleagues each day.
5. What is a typical day like for you at the company?
I work on the Brazil desk. In the morning, I do some physical exercise to start my day the right way. Normally, I come in a bit before opening to prepare for the start of trading. I catch up on the news and discuss expectations for the day with the team. As the opening approaches, the energy in the office is contagious. You start to see everyone getting busy and preparing for the market to open. The first hour is always the busiest time of the day; there is lots of action! When the market is quieter, I have meetings with traders, quant researchers, and developers to discuss improvements to current strategies and any other ideas that we may have. Before the market closes, I make sure that everything is in order, and wrap up my positions. I then end my workday with a short briefing to see how things went. After work, it is always nice to have a casual chat with colleagues over some drinks and a game of pool.
6. DaVinci is a rather small company, does size matter when in competition against other companies?
The philosophy of Da Vinci is to find our niche and come up with strategies that our competitors cannot. We can make sure that we optimise better, so that we can work faster. Our edge is the creativity of our people, this is what is important in competition against other companies.
7. Is there any information you would give students regarding programming skills?
While programming is very important, it is good to know that not every role at the company needs to program. For example, traders do not need to, while quant researchers do quite a bit of programming. Although, as a trader, it is nice to know how to program in Python as it allows you to do interesting side projects. The level of programming I was taught in university was quite basic. I would recommend expanding your knowledge further by, for example, following some extra courses or watching YouTube videos.
8. Are there any tips you would give to students before considering joining DaVinci?
One tip I can give is to follow the news related to trading; the markets, political situations, and more. This allows you to have a well-rounded idea of trading. Do not just focus on the course material that you are taught at university. Also, you need practical skills. For example, it would be good to know how a change in interest rates would impact the financial market. Lastly, it is ideal to have a level of competitiveness. At Da Vinci, we want to be the best trading company in the world, so it can help if you have that drive to make the right decision. Thank you for answering questions that will help students know more about DaVinci.
Promotion student jobs:
Studying in the Netherlands and looking to kick start your career? Are you too curious and eager to wait for graduation? Spice up your final semester by joining us on our trading floor a few times a week to learn the ins and outs of trading and quant research. Take the opportunity to explore your interest in financial markets, programming and complex problem solving to get a head start on your future career as either trader or quant at Da Vinci!