From UvA to Da Vinci’s Trader. An interview with Hidde Top (VSAE Alumni)
Amid the coronavirus outbreak, I sat down with DaVinci Derivatives trader, Hidde Top, for an interview via Skype. Despite these circumstances, Hidde Top is still working hard at the office. During our conversation, we discussed Hidde’s very interesting background, experiences, his work and his firm, Da Vinci Derivatives.
Da Vinci Derivatives is a company owned and funded by its employees and focuses on trading different types of financial products across multiple exchanges across the globe.
- To start off, could you introduce a bit about yourself and how you landed a job as a trader at Da Vinci?
First of all, I also studied Econometrics at the UvA, and have finished my Master in Financial Econometrics last summer. Before I did Econometrics, I had had a degree in Economic History. Also, I was a member of the VSAE. So, when I looked for an internship opportunity for my Masters’ thesis, I came across Da Vinci while browsing through Careers4quant (which is a job searching website on VSAE). I emailed them and asked them whether they had any internships available. Unfortunately, Da Vinci only had training programs for new full-time workers. However, they invited me to their office and showed me around, which made me much more enthusiastic about Da Vinci. After that, I decided to apply to Da Vinci right after my graduation, and now I am working as a derivatives trader.
- Why did you decide to switch from a history major to econometrics?
When I finished high school, I didn’t exactly know what I was going or wanted to do. So, I studied History as most people found it fun and interesting. However, during my studies, I realized that I preferred more mathematical studies, as well as the financial industry, so Econometrics is a great combination of the two. I decided to try Econometrics, and fortunately, it was a great fit for me.
- As a UvA Econometrics alumnus, how has the program prepared you for the labor market?
When I started as a trader at Da Vinci, there was a training program which introduced me to the standard models for trading. And some of these models are taught in several 2nd year or higher courses. While these courses did provide me with the necessary theory, I think that what you need as a trader or what you could learn as an econometrician is the ability to put theory into practice. In order words, you need to be able to interpret the models and make decisions based on them.
- What do you like most about your job?
I would have to say the all the action. Especially the past few weeks has been very busy due to the high volatility markets caused by the coronavirus. In other words, there is a bit of thrill every day, where you have to do many things at the same time and watch markets going up and down. Also, as a trader, you always work in a team, so the shouting here and there to notify each other information is also quite fun. Being surrounded by brilliant people and having an excellent training program motivates all of us to be at the top of our game and always do our best.
- How is the coronavirus affecting DaVinci and you as a trader?
Well, the operations at DaVinci are still running as normal. The only difference is in communications. Most of us work from home, while a few like me still come to the office. As for me, even though markets are volatile, higher risk also means potentially higher reward. So the most important thing for me was to be prepared, take a position, and trade accordingly. The good thing is that markets are still functioning properly despite the corona situation and as traders/market makers we ensure market liquidity even in stressed circumstances.
- Apart from the professional side of things, what is life like at Da Vinci?
As you know, Da Vinci is located at the old Amsterdam exchange building in Beursplein, which is basically in the center of the city. So on most Fridays (well not now at least), we would go to local bars to have drinks with colleagues. Also, since there are a lot of young people working at Da Vinci, we hold many events such as playing poker or board games with each other. Moreover, it is an international environment with people from all over the world and Da Vinci creates opportunities to interact and learn new cultures in different settings.
- Are there any internship positions and what are the job opportunities at Da Vinci for econometricians?
First of all, due to the small size of Da Vinci, we currently focus on training employees, but internships may be possible later. For job opportunities, there’re always job openings for researchers and traders which I think is very suitable for econometrics students. If you are interested, you can always email us (firstname.lastname@example.org), which was what I had done, for any information on the job positions or the application process. You can also visit our website (www.davinciderivatives.com) and follow us on social media.
- During your studies, you have taken on part-time jobs. Can you share with us any advice on this topic?
Before studying Econometrics at UvA, I had already started working part-time at a brokerage firm in Amsterdam. I was a bit older when I started there. But nowadays, I do see some young people who just started studying picking up a part-time job. In my opinion, while you do gain the experience of working in an actual firm, I don’t recommend this yet for younger undergraduates. I think it is best to settle down and get used to studying first and then take on a job later. Of course, while studying, one should always put study first.
As for advice for finding internships, I would have to say just go out there and try. Choose a company you like, leave them an email, call them, perhaps even if they didn’t post any positions online. I, myself, got turned down several times for various reasons, but if you put effort into it, you’ll eventually get some.
- Thank you very much for spending time with us Hidde. I wish you all the best and hope that you stay safe. Thank you, DaVinci, for giving us the opportunity to take a glimpse into the life of a trader.