Young Google, Facebook alums flocking to this high-paying trading firm

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An internship or a few years of work experience at Google and Facebook can open plenty of doors. But many fresh-faced alums have recently decided against launching a startup or heading to Wall Street and are instead leveraging their experience to move to the Midwest to join a low-profile high-frequency trading firm.

Chicago-based Jump Trading was founded in 1999, though its name first came to national prominence 15 years later following the publication of Michael Lewis’s Flash Boys, which scrutinized the world of high-frequency trading. While Jump Trading still minimizes its public visibility, the firm seems to have a sterling reputation 3,000 miles away in California, where many blue-chip recruits from Google and Facebook leap at the chance to join the Chicago firm.

At least 27 former Google and Facebook alumni currently work at Jump Trading, with the vast majority having interned at the tech firms or worked full-time for a short period of time, according to LinkedIn. The mutual attraction between Jump and former Google and Facebook juniors seems relatively new. Roughly two-thirds of the aforementioned hires have been working for Jump for three years of less. The recruiting numbers are particularly impressive considering every Chicago hire interned or worked in sunny California. Recruits who likely had multiple options in Silicon Valley instead chose to up and move to the Windy City.

“It’s becoming one of the more sought-after destinations,” said one current Google employee who counts several friends as Jump Trading recruits. He pointed to high-pay, innovation and a startup-like culture as the main selling points. No current Jump employee responded to requests for comment on the firm, which gained some notoriety for its aversion to the media following a Bloomberg report in which the only person to go on record was the co-founder’s mother. In fact, much of the firm’s Web presence can be attributed to Perkins+Will, the designer of its funky, startup-like Chicago and New York offices. Jump Trading declined to comment through its PR firm.

Quant researchers, algorithmic traders and software engineers make up most all the hires from Google and Facebook. Wall Street Oasis says that a research associate at Jump’s Chicago headquarters can make $150k base plus a bonus of up to $75k, well more than most associate-level hires would earn at large tech companies or on Wall Street.

Jump continues to add to its global headcount each year, spread across its Chicago, London, Singapore, New York and Shanghai offices. It currently employs nearly 600 employees, up from around 350 in 2014, according to Bloomberg. In the U.K., Jump increased headcount from 68 at the end of 2016 to 94 as of the end of last year, according to last week’s filing on Companies House. That means Jump has doubled its number of U.K. employees in just two years (47 in 2015).

However, the 2017 additions didn’t seem to do much for Jump’s bottom line, at least in the U.K. where it is obliged to publicize its figures. Revenue fell $4m to $154m in 2017, despite the addition of 12 front-office employees. With staff costs north of $52 million, the average pay per head last year in the U.K. was $557k, down from $739k in 2016. Still not a bad wage considering it classifies roughly 60% of its U.K. employees as back-office staff. The firm currently has 55 global openings posted on its website.

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