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I may be a quant during the day, but just wait until you get me in the boxing ring

We interview Bilal

"5 Star" Al-Ali, head of quants at UBS Hong Kong, about his professional career, and why he's currently training to fight in Vanda Promotion's IFS White Collar Boxing event in Hong Kong on 4 September.

How would you describe your emotions towards your upcoming fight?

Confident, excited, determined, tenacious, nervous.

Has training for the white collar boxing imparted any skills that you feel are applicable to your career?

Determination is as important in the boxing ring as in my career. In addition, I've also discovered that I can operate effectively with swollen eyes - my eyes swell after sparing - while wearing dark glasses to look at my computer screens.

Would you recommend this experience to your colleagues?

This has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. The goal is to provide a safe environment in which anyone can become a star for a night. The production value of the show is better than those of some world title fights you would see.

Who would you want to be in the ring with?

Toby Dodd, the World White Collar Boxing Association APAC champion. He is the best white collar boxer in Asia right now, although he hasn't faced me yet. If you look at some of the recent results here in Asia, it's clear that on any given night, any boxer can beat any boxer. On September 4, I will beat Toby and take the title.

What made you want to become a quant initially?

I finished my PhD in PDEs in 1998 and it was around this time that financial institutions started to recognise the benefits of quant analysis. There was a realisation that it could provide trading teams with significant advantages because of the insight it could give.

What personality traits and skills are helpful in your job function?

Communication is key; being able to convert any quantitative concept into "trader speak". Bulletproof coding is also important; giving something to the trading desk that has no bug, or won't break when it's in production.

What qualifications are helpful?

I would advise any university student who is serious about working in the quant field to complete an MSc or PhD in engineering or mathematics.

What is the most difficult aspect of your work?

New asset classes. I have started working in the fixed income and hybrid space after 12 years in equity derivatives, which, while exciting, is equally challenging.

What aspect of your work do you enjoy the most?

My team. I am lucky to be part of such a talented group of individuals.

Click here to read an update from Bilal about how his training is progressing.

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