Witad Awards 2023: Rising star (end user)—Joanna Guo, Citadel

Joanna Guo’s role as a quantitative developer in Citadel’s credit and convertibles business has two parts, equally complex and critical: the quantitative side of building pricing and analytical models and risk metrics that predict what to trade and when, and the developer side, which involves designing and building the execution platforms that enable traders and investment managers to make decisions and execute quickly.

All of this is to say that she spends a lot of time dealing with data so that others don’t have to. Specifically, she and her team collect, clean and present data from large numbers of traditional market data sources, as well as the firm’s internal data, to its traders and portfolio managers. Guo herself has built some of the desk’s predictive model, collecting public domain “masked” data and enhancing the data by building a model that provides better predictions. By nature, these may never be 100% accurate—the aim is to get them as close to actual figures as possible.

And then there’s how one presents the data to traders so they can make split-second decisions. In this case, Guo’s team built a custom internal screening tool, leveraging common infrastructure elements being deployed by Citadel across its business, to create a display that would allow traders to see all the data they need at a glance, from the single security level to the portfolio level—the latter of which Guo built.

“Before that, people needed to spend quite a long time collecting data, and everyone might have maintained their own spreadsheets to perform calculations and analysis. Excel is the most convenient tool, but for complex uses in finance, we try to avoid dependence on it,” she says, because of the amount of synching and updating individual spreadsheets require. “Convertibles is a very special and complex space, so we developed a lot of customized designs for it.”

There’s another design at work behind the scenes—and that’s how Citadel fosters a culture to help staff succeed. In fact, Guo credits her own achievements to the help afforded by others within the organization. “What makes me happiest is the supportive environment. If I meet any problem that I can’t solve myself, I can easily find a colleague who can provide direction or a solution,” she says. Not only does this model improve efficiency; it also inspires employees to want to inspire others. “I’ve had all the support I could ask for. People at Citadel want to dream big and be a role model for others.”

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