This report analyses the basic salaries (not including bonus) of software engineers in the quant trading industry from 2019 to date from a universe of the top 70 quant hedge funds and proprietary trading firms.
We would like to caveat that following the Jan 2020 introduction of Labor Law Section 194 in New York, and similar rules in other states, it became illegal to ask for current or historical salary data. This analysis has been compiled using salary data captured from H1B visa filings. We believe H1B salaries do not deviate too much from the local standard, and so make for a great point of reference.
We also need to caveat we were unable to break the data down by level or experience which does skew the figures. However, base salaries do tend to cap out in the quant trading industry around the $250-300k mark with the bulk of compensation being paid in bonus.
To start with, let us have a look at the overall industry statistics:
Based on a sample size of 485 datapoints, collected between 2019 and mid-2021, the average salary for a software engineer stands at $152,916, with a median of $150,000.
The range is quite wide (based on a number of factors we will explore later) with the minimum being $71,400 and $280,500 at the top end.
This is impressive when compared to the average Software Engineer salary across other industries in the USA:
According to payscale.com, the minimum stands at $63,000, but the real difference is when looking at everything else: an average of $87,146, median of $87,000, and maximum of $128,000.
This means the Quant Investment industry provides a 13.3% higher minimum salary, a respectable 75.4% increase on the average, and a whopping 119% increase at the maximum level, compared to the national average!
However, the real competition for software engineers comes from the tech industry. And so, we looked at salary data for Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook and Microsoft as a representative sample of what the upper tier of the tech industry is willing to pay for Software Engineers. According to https://www.levels.fyi/SE/ the averages are as follows:
Please note, this comparison is based on self-reported comp data, and does not include stock and cash bonuses.
Within the Industry:
We also took a closer look at how base salaries compare over time and between companies.
The salary level evolution over time shows an interesting trend ever so slightly downwards (as evidenced by the dotted line). Please note, the graph stretches past the current date, due to visa filings for the following few months.
Average pay declined from $160,000 to $141,000 which does seem to suggest a general narrowing of supply and demand gap for software engineers.
The third quarter is when the vast majority of H1B hiring happens.
As the graph indicates, the third quarter for both 2019 and 2020 saw over 59% of the hiring for this job within the Quant Investment sector. This makes sense as it ties in with the school year or a 6-9 month non-compete after getting paid bonus at the start of the year.
In terms of employers, the largest appetite for H1B sponsored software engineers seems to be in Citadel Asset Management, followed by Two Sigma and Susquehanna (no real surprises there). The full top 10 list is as follows:
Citadel as a whole easily surpasses everyone else, given that Citadel Securities comes up in 4th place and put together, they make up around 44% of the top 10 list.
Overall, we have a sample of 428 hires between these top employers, of which Citadel Asset Management takes 34.8%, Two Sigma takes 18.69% and Susquehanna, 9.57%.
Geographically speaking, over 54% of these 402 listings fall into 3 places: New York City (26.1% ; Avg. salary $168,912) , Chicago (19.9% ; Avg. salary $148,694) and Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania (8.45% ; Avg. salary $94,667).
The salary is 22% lower in Chicago compared to NYC, and 44% lower in Bala Cynwyd compared to NYC.
Is there a real difference in cost of living to justify those differences?
According to salary.com , cost of living compared to NYC is 37% lower in Bala Cynwyd, and 36.3% lower in Chicago.
Perhaps with a 22% pay cut but a 36% living cost decrease, Chicago is the place to be.
These are the top 7 by Average Salary (where we had more than 5 data points to draw from):
Okay – but who pays the most?
A very good question…. although again we will caveat that this data is drawn from H1B filings and does not include all salary data. Also we only included companies with sufficient datapoints to make a good determination.
The top 5 hedge funds in terms of average Software Engineering salary
Jane Street tops the list with an average of $196.4k which is unsurprising as it’s difficult to find anybody that still uses OCAML. Two Sigma in second at $178,400 following by Citadel Securities and Citadel Asset Management on $169.7k and $165.2k respectively and finally, Point72 hovering around the $170k mark.
This may not come as a surprise but software engineers are well paid in the quant trading industry. There are disparities between the base salaries different firms and locations however this report does not capture all compensation data i.e. bonuses – which contribute a larger proportion of your total compensation as your career grows.
To get a copy of the full salary report that provides detailed analysis of the top 15 funds please click here