Helen McGlone: Maths wizards who shape the future of world stock markets

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Helen McGlone had been on the point of getting her first job as a quant – or more formally quantitative analyst – with a City financial institution.

Though little known outside of the trading floors, the role of quants is increasingly taking over the world’s financial capitals.

Investment decisions are no longer being made by financiers, but increasingly by PhD mathematicians and the computer programmes they devise. Instead of relying on dealers who relied on research, experience and gut instinct to make deals, firms now employ statisticians to track patterns or trends in trading behaviour and create formulae to predict market movements.

These formulae are then fed into powerful computers that buy and sell automatically according to triggers generated by the algorithms.