Koen joined IMC in 2017 as a Trading Intern in our Amsterdam office. After graduating with a Master’s in Aerospace Engineering from Delft University, he returned to IMC as a Junior Trader. We asked him to share his internship experience – starting at the very beginning.
Landing an Internship in Amsterdam
I first heard of IMC at De Delftse Bedrijvendagen, a careers fair at my university. It was early in my Bachelor’s degree so I was still planning on pursuing a career related to my major in aerospace engineering. However, I had always been interested in the quantitative side of the financial markets, and a subsequent internship at the European Space Agency convinced me to focus on my minor in finance. I liked the idea of a role that combined applied mathematics with direct feedback, which is why I ended up applying to IMC.
Before applying I had an opportunity to attend an in-house Trading Experience day where I got to know the business in an informal environment. The day began with presentations where we heard about life at IMC from trading and technology leads. Most other companies don’t go to this effort so having the chance to ask senior people about both work and company culture was pretty exciting.
“One of the reasons I applied to IMC is their approach to algorithmic trading seems more academic than their competitors’.”
Things move quickly at IMC, and the application process is no exception. Within two weeks of taking numerical and logical tests I was sitting at my final interview. Before this point I had taken part in a video interview and had a face-to-face meeting with a recruiter, and a more experienced trader.
The final interviews, which encompassed three 45-minute meetings with two Traders at each initially seemed very long, but they flew by incredibly quickly. With so many different people to talk to it was difficult to finish each session in the time allocated, and not because I was being interrogated. The interviews ended up becoming interesting discussions rather than traditional question-and-answers, and the difficulty came in stopping the conversation! In fact, the interest the Traders showed in me was a good indicator of the great experience my internship would become.
Life on the Trading Floor
One of the reasons I applied to IMC is their approach to algorithmic trading seems more academic than their competitors’. I think the idea of automating strategies is the best approach for the future of financial markets. It’s also something I’m personally interested in – so I couldn’t wait to get started.
On my first day I was so excited. My supervisor, Steven, introduced me to everyone on the trading floor where I would be sitting for the next few months. I felt really welcomed. More than that everyone showed a genuine interest in my project. This, together with little touches like having my own water bottle, made me realise that I was going to be treated like another member of the team.
IMC look after their interns. As well as earning a salary, our food and housing were taken care of. In fact, our accommodation was in a cool part of South Amsterdam that’s home to trendy bars and famous markets.
That’s not to say I only socialised with other interns – everyone at IMC is friendly, even at a senior level. So as well as formal events like our New Year party and partnership updates, I was invited to birthday dinners and Friday drinks with my team.
It’s a truly open culture where direct feedback is valued. Sitting on the trading floor I would often find experienced traders stopping by my desk to talk about my project. Even though my work wasn’t in a live environment (you need a trading licence for that) they made time to ask questions and show interest. And in doing so they improved my analysis.
During my internship I worked across several projects. After making solid progress on one, I moved on to another that saw me learn different coding languages like Python. I also made a start on C++ to better contribute to more complex projects. Whatever I worked on was a challenge – in the best possible sense of the word. The learning curve was steep, and it stayed that way. For people who are curious, and who want to push themselves intellectually, it’s a great experience.
“For people who are curious, and who want to push themselves intellectually, it’s a great experience.”
My internship was made even more interesting by events occurring in Europe at the time. For example, the French elections this year were always going to be a singular event in terms of data modeling. But they also took place in a unique social and political context; namely in the wake of Brexit.
We started our analysis around a month in advance, pulling together a combination of Trader experience and historical data to assess all possible scenarios. Because my desk is on the trading floor I was directly exposed to the trading activities prior to the elections. Being part of the buzz on the floor really helped me understand how IMC positions itself for such an important event. It was typical of IMC that, on the Sunday evening following the French vote, a few of us ended up in the office discussing the implications for the markets.
It’s been amazing to work with people who share my interests, and whose passion, expertise and open way of working have spurred me on to greater heights. And that’s just the internship: I can’t wait to come back and see what we achieve together once I’ve graduated.