This past April, Goldman Sachs hired a nuclear physicist into its mortgage finance department. That kind of a career change sometimes surprises people. Nuclear physics is not exactly the same thing as running mortgage investments and writing financial contracts. Nevertheless, the idea is a star performer (especially a math and science wizard) in one industry will tend to be a star performer in other industries too.
Smarts in one industry sometimes translate to smarts in another. But then again, not always. Although one could argue intellectual horsepower is intellectual horsepower, the full business context is a major factor in any person’s performance. The financial industry has once again been reminded of this as Stephen Gandel reports (“Wall Street Returns to Its Favorite Talent Pool” Fortune, June 10, 2013, p. 20):
“In the past few years financial firms have been less interested in so-called quants. ‘The models developed before the financial crisis proved to be pathetically inadequate,’ says Dominic Connor, a London-based recruiter who specializes in quants.”
He did not say mediocre. He said pathetically inadequate.
The challenges of the financial services sector never disappear. But then again, the opportunities to hire another quant never do either.