Quants worth following: Matthew Lyberg

April 17, 2024
Title picture for Quants worth following: Matthew Lyberg

I was a Russian major. Coming out of college, there were 300 million people who speak Russian better than I ever will—it was my first lesson on marginal demand.

"Quants worth following" is our latest interview series highlighting thought leaders in the quantitative trading industry actively sharing their knowledge and resources with the community.

We sat down with Matthew Lyberg, Director of Quantitative Investments at Manulife Investment Management. Matt has an extensive academic background, having several degrees in Mathematics, Computational Finance, International Business, and Russian, all playing a part in his transition to the quant industry. Before working at Manulife, Matt spent four years at State Street, nine years at Acadian Asset Management, and briefly at Lumint Corporation, YieldX, and NVDR as a Quantitative Researcher and Analyst.

Matt dives into his untraditional background and path to being a quant, career advice for those entering the industry from any background, daily job responsibilities, thoughts on AI's impact in Finance, and valuable industry resources.

"Meeting a lot of quants in the industry, there's this typical math or CS background. I was a Russian major. Coming out of college, there were 300 million people who speak Russian better than I ever will—it was my first lesson on marginal demand.

I ended up being a documented photographer. This was my first gig out of college, where I was photographing the rebirth of Orthodox monasticism in Ukraine—a very different mindset from our day-to-day now. What was interesting, though, is it was actually the Russian language that helped me. I got very close with a family here in Boston, refugees from the former Soviet Union. It was this very great home-away-from-home, mentorship relationship."

Fortunately, this family connected Matt with Mark Ginsberg, a retired Math professor in Boston who played a pivotal role in Matt's transition to Finance. After attending business school in Boston, Matt embarked on the journey to join the Finance industry, starting with furthering his mathematics skills.

"Professor Ginsburg and I, we worked together for like four years, two hours a week. Very intense, where I would find a syllabus for a course and we'd go through it together in a fairly accelerated fashion, but it was very much a different approach to mathematics than I had in school before that."

Matt eventually joined State Street Wealth Management Services, where he gained significant experience in fund accounting and back office operations, which served as the foundation of his career. Matt notes, "The intersection of implementation where maybe there's a model going on and maybe there's some unusual effects, having been through that fund accounting background and knowing the math, speaking some of the language of quants, I can bridge the gap between what risks were realized in the portfolio and what we were intending to do. And apply that through currency, apply that through different assets and programs."

After State Street, Matt joined Acadian, where he had the opportunity to pursue continued education, ultimately attending Carnegie Mellon's Master of Science in Computational Finance (MSCF) program. During this time, he was working in performance attribution analytics and felt his next step would be portfolio management or research, but he wasn't confident in his toolkit.

"Carnegie Mellon kind of came about as taking a step back and sort of rebooting a little bit and getting the coding skills, getting some higher level mathematical analysis skills. My goals were to be able to read a paper and develop a model, whatever that meant, from both mathematics and the technical perspective."

"There's obviously these programs that are part of a large pipeline where a lot of talent goes into finance, a lot of talent goes into quant, and there's all sort of these feeder programs. So, try to get into one of those as early as you can."

Reflecting on his untraditional path to quant trading, Matt notes,"Certainly, I wasn't on that path at all. So for me, it was meeting with a lot of very kind people who helped me set a direction."

For those desiring to break into Finance from an unconventional background or who are pivoting in their career, we hope Matt's story inspires and encourages you to pursue the transition. He emphasizes the value of community and networking throughout his journey and states, "Make sure you enjoy it because it's an ongoing process."

"Whether it's CFA, whether it's grad school, it's always the start of it, because things are moving so fast. And I'm finding my learning is moving more from books to conversations because that just seems to be the only way to keep up with things. So, finding that community, finding those conversations, I think is maybe the way I would try to do it now if I had to start over, is focus on those a little more."

"How I spend a lot of my day now is thinking about, how do I help with that? Almost more building pipelines and thinking about what infrastructure would be required."

Matt provides a broad overview and comparison of his role as a quant that may differ from other organizations that aren't focused on fundamental investing.

"The organization I work for is more fundamentally focused, which is a nice arbitrage trade if you're a quant, right? Because when you think of fundamental investing, it's a question of depth."

Matt shares a recent story of meeting with a portfolio manager and discussing the pricing dynamics of Unilever soap supply. He mentions that this conversation could have happened about any of the 200 companies and adds, "That was kind of my first exposure to that level of intense focus and depth, whereas quants, we're more about breadth."

"As a quant, it's a cross-sectional comparison. You're interested in exposure to factors rather than individual companies. The companies are a means to the end. It's kind of thrilling to work in that intersection and that tension of, what are some of the tools from quant land that we can bring to fundamental? And maybe there's a lot of opportunity for refining some quantitative strategies with more fundamental views."

"I think the surprising thing for me is thinking about where it's going to get the most use, and for me, that's almost certainly in a lot of the operational and production roles where you have stable systems. Think of it as parsing offering docs, looking through where you have a lot of text that you need to generate, and some idea of structure and summary of key points, or in client reporting."

Matt shares two of his go-to resources that immediately come to mind:

Book "It's incredibly biased, Data Quality Engineering in Financial Services by Brian Buzelli, he was the Chief Data Officer at Acadian. It's very relevant to me because we're thinking a lot about these kind of questions, and I find myself going back to that book time and time again."

Podcast "I've really enjoyed Invest Like the Best, Patrick O'Shaughnessy's podcast. His idea of onramps and how people can help you into a new world resonates a lot with me because, in the Boston quant community, it's a very kind community… folks [like] Dan diBartolomeo, Northfield, who just are willing to mentor and talk through problems. I feel liek Patrick's podcast really captures a lot of that as it applies to investment management."

Watch the full interview on our YouTube here.