For many Wall Street aspirants, a career at a top hedge fund is the holy grail. For those who succeed, compensation has the potential to eclipse nearly any other profession in the country — let alone finance.
The hedge fund industry has transformed over the past 15 years. Whereas fundamental investment strategies once ruled the day, increasingly the flow of talent and capital is shifting toward firms with sophisticated quantitative strategies and data-mining operations.
Today, most of the largest and most successful funds have significant quant operations, if not a complete emphasis on quantitative investing. Firms like AQR, Bridgewater, Citadel, D.E. Shaw, Point72, and Two Sigma vigorously compete for the most promising young financial minds — and they pay hefty sums to lure in top candidates.
Bonuses play an outsized role in overall comp at most funds, especially in investment roles, but base salaries are still substantial and figure prominently especially at the more junior levels, where employees typically have a less direct impact on overall returns.
Some of the brightest minds in systematic trading and quantitative research were born and educated outside the US, and some funds stock their US rosters with foreign labor. When US companies file paperwork for visas on behalf of current or prospective foreign workers, they’re required to say how much base compensation the workers are offered. And every year, the Office of Foreign Labor Certification discloses this salary data in an enormous dataset.
Business Insider analyzed the agency’s disclosure data from the fourth quarter of 2020 through the second quarter of 2021 for permanent and temporary foreign workers to shed light on what these hedge funds paid for talent. The jobs were based around the country and do not reflect bonuses, which can be substantial.
According to US Department of Labor documentation, the offered wages in the disclosure data are the minimum amounts companies provided in foreign labor certification applications for specific workers.
The wages are derived from the average compensation that similar employees in each given job, industry, and with comparable qualifications are paid, which is known as the “prevailing wage.” Prevailing wage sets a floor for their salary, but salaries are often much higher than the prevailing wage.
Representatives for the funds either did not respond to or declined requests for comment.
Quant powerhouse Two Sigma battles not just Wall Street, but Silicon Valley for top talent.
The New York-based manager, founded by billionaires David Siegel and John Overdeck, recruits heavily from oversees, the immigration applications show. The most common roles by far were software engineers and quant researchers, with more than 120 applications for these roles over the last three years.
The average minimum salary for software engineers is $186,500 while quant researchers came in at $189,350 annually — before any bonuses.
Billionaire Steve Cohen, owner of the New York Mets and the founder of Point72, has an array of titles and roles that he recruits from abroad.
According to the applications, the firm has hired everything from coders to data scientists to compliance professionals.
The most common role though is “research analyst”; these employees make on average a minimum of $127,640 in base salary, and a maximum of $176,666.
With roughly $140 billion in assets under management and 1,500 employees, Bridgewater is an industry heavyweight.
The Westport, Connecticut-based firm hires scores of foreign workers annually, according to Office of Foreign Labor Certification records.
Typically junior employees are hired to an “associate” level position. Compensation at this level can vary by job focus, given the sprawling nature of the firm.
The most typical salary starting point for these employees — comprising of visa submissions for “investment associates” — was nearly $120,000, but there was a wide range of salaries and some earned twice that much.
Applications software developers are one of the most common roles Bridgewater hires foreign workers for. Salary ranges by title include:
- Technology associate — $110,000 to $146,000
- Software engineer — $141,000 to $425,000
- Senior software engineer — $138,000 to $222,000
- Tech lead — $133,000 to $342,000
At billionaire Ken Griffin’s ultra-competitive Citadel, entry-level associates made on average $150,000 in base salary, according to the filings.
Beyond entry-level positions, the filings show that software engineers at Citadel — the hedge fund business only, not the separate market-making entity — make a little over $170,000 a year.
Another popular role that Citadel recruited from abroad for was quants — in particular quantitative researchers. The average minimum salary for this position is more than $188,000, while the max is more than $200,000.
At AQR Capital Management, the quant fund founded by Cliff Asness in 1998 that manages roughly $143 billion in assets, financial analyst is the most common role it hires foreign workers for. On average, these analysts make about $125,000 in base salary.
The Greenwich, Connecticut-based hedge fund pays financial quantitative analysts at the associate level about $150,000 in base salary.
The firm has also used H-1B visas to hire a bevy of software developers. A vice-president level systems software developer earns a little over $190,000, while VPs in applications software development earn just over $175,000 on average.
Founded in 1988 by David Shaw, D.E. Shaw is one of the oldest quant hedge funds in the game.
The firm, which has over $55 billion in assets under management and 1,700 employees, boasts about the mathematical chops and international representation on staff, noting on its website that employees hold 23 International Math Olympiad medals, 83 PhDs, and speak 65 different languages.
Here’s how much certain roles at the firm are paid in base salary, based on H-1B salary data:
- Financial analysts — $150,000
- Quantitative analysts — $187,500
- Systems software developers — $200,000
- Trader — $170,000