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Rising through the Ranks: Quant Leap with Srujan Reddy Yara

Rising through the Ranks: Quant Leap with Srujan Reddy Yara

Meet Srujan Reddy Yara, Vice President of Quantitative Research at JP Morgan. An alumnus of BITS Pilani (Pilani, ‘17) pursued Chemical Engineering. He is now leading the Quantitative Research team from the forefront.

As Vice-President for Quantitative Research at JP Morgan, what are your main responsibilities and key challenges? How do you address these challenges to ensure success?

I particularly focus on investable index markets. The algorithmic index business operates similarly to mutual funds; however, the key difference is that we don’t have a human fund manager to make the investment decisions. Rather, we write computer code that picks what assets to buy or sell, when to buy or sell, and finally, how much to buy or sell. The whole strategy is written on paper, along with the legalese, which both the client and the firm sign. All your intelligence goes into designing the algorithm that picks the constituents' weights in your index strategy. Not only that, but we also need to build a risk management machine to trade the assets effectively. I am now focused on creating a strategic index framework to unify our various index systems, aiming to manage all indices with a single system. The challenge lies in conceptualizing, establishing, and developing this new approach and integrating it with trading.

Reflecting on your time at BITS Pilani, how was the academic environment? Were there any standout courses that left a lasting impact on you? Can you share any significant projects or initiatives you worked on?

I wanted to ace my core branch, and I studied hard. I also took Computer Science courses alongside. I recommend that all interested students actively code regardless of their branch. You will cherish coding because it opens up a new dimension of thinking in a structured manner. I recommend taking on-campus courses for DSA (prerequisite of discrete math), OOP, and an ME-level object-oriented design and analysis course. For Finance, I recommend the DRM and SAPM courses. Apart from academics, I was the secretary for IIChE, Pilani chapter, and have designed events in APOGEE.

What significant changes and differences have you noticed in work culture, professional environment, operational practices, and market dynamics after moving from JP Morgan's Mumbai office to the London office?

The workforce in India is quite young compared to London, and I believe that the strategies for growth differ between the two regions. In a growing team, there are numerous opportunities if you have the energy to put in. However, the focus is mostly on delivering significant and critical deliverables in London. You own large processes end-to-end and even have a mandate of yours. The more you own, the more you grow, and the competition is tougher. The growth prospects are better in India, but the proximity to the business and learning opportunities are more direct in London.

What initially drew you to the field of quantitative research? Can you describe your journey from an intern at WorldQuant to becoming Vice-President of Quantitative Research at JP Morgan?

I am a Chemical Engineer and took Finance and Computer Science courses on campus. I was looking for a role that blends all my skills. In my pursuit of finding the right field, I was trying my hands at many things, including research and industrial experiences in my core branch, and out of sheer coincidence, I came across a poster on one of the hostel bulletin boards about WorldQuant’s summer virtual alpha research internship. I liked the idea of them teaching online and thought I could manage it alongside my core internships, which I was doing simultaneously. I tried all my heat-transfer chemical equations to draw parallels with the finance terms, and I could make good alphas. I got onboarded as a virtual research consultant due to my good performance in the summer contest, and then I resigned once I got my PS-2 at JP Morgan. I was one of the first interns at the JP Morgan quant team in India and started my journey in the Commodity Index team. In my five years in India, I became a VP and owned a small team before moving to London.

How can students and early-career professionals prepare themselves to take on roles similar to yours in the future?

Make your hand-written notes on Linear algebra by watching MIT OCW 18.06 by Gilbert Strang, and keep it with you for your life. Take your math and computer science courses with the utmost passion. If you don’t like the course on campus, try MIT courses or any other resource. Always think from first principles. You must develop this skill that will eventually land you a good placement. 

Looking back on your time at JP Morgan, can you share any memorable experiences or significant projects that deeply impacted you? How did these experiences shape your professional journey?

The work usually feels like a multi-disciplinary university assignment, simultaneously doing stochastic calculus, linear algebra, and coding. One project I can discuss freely is the adverse price of the WTI_NYMEX May 2020 futures contract. It closed at minus $37. What does it mean to have a negative price? Imagine you fancy eating a Kit-Kat, and you run to a nearby shop to buy it. But to your surprise, the shopkeeper pays you to take the chocolate. We had to adjust the models in a short span. So, my long days at work are usually due to macroeconomic activity elsewhere. This made me realize how tightly knit the world is.