Forefront Communications

eFinancial Careers: My Career Path from HFT Cop to Investment Banker to Hedge Fund PM to Data Startup


Mark Dowd

Mark Dowd

John Collins had a baptism by fire when he started out in finance. As an investigator for NYSE Euronext tracking tick data for suspicious trading, he was working at the exchange in 2007 when the infamous ‘quant meltdown’ kicked off, which was swiftly followed by the Bear Stearns’ and Lehman Brothers’ collapse of 2008 and then the financial crisis that followed. After three years, he decided that it was high time he took time out to study an MBA.

“Those events, among others, created a wildly dynamic regulatory landscape that has only recently returned to something approaching a steady state,” Collins, who is a co-founder of artificial intelligence and data startup, Thasos Group, says.

But those experiences also stoked his interest in finance and investment management. Collins decided to enter MIT Sloan’s two-year MBA program, where he worked with the Center for Collective Intelligence to assess the impact of social sentiment on the stock market, specifically publicly listed renewable energy companies. He coded a fully automated trading system to test the sentiment signals with live capital.

“My trading system placed real-money trades for me while I attended classes,” Collins says. “After some early successes, I wrote a whitepaper describing my strategy and results and circulated it among my finance and hedge fund contacts, which eventually ended up in the hands of my soon-to-be Thasos co-founders, Greg Skibiski and Wei Pan.

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