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Domeyard: Inside a high-speed trading firm

Published: March 10, 2016

MIT ethos penetrates culture at new firm in Boston

Christina Qi of Domeyard

Christina Qi, SB ’13, co-founded Domeyard

You won’t find a CEO’s office in the 30th-floor offices of Domeyard, a new MIT-born hedge fund based in Boston’s financial district. The fund’s three founders, including Christina Qi, SB ’13, work at long tables next to a team of 15, everyone operating as equals. One quickly notices that most of them show up for work in sneakers and jeans.

Domeyard is a quantitative, high-frequency hedge fund begun in 2013 by Qi and two classmates from MIT and Harvard. Sparked by an interest to meld technology, mathematics, and finance, the three first came together at Baker House, an MIT dormitory, where they began trading the electronic sessions in European markets at 2 a.m. Now, with a growing waitlist of investors at the door, they’re preparing to trade in new markets, and expanding a nimble team in a flat organization.

The flat structure at Domeyard—named for MIT’s Great Dome and Harvard Yard—is intended to remove obstacles to good ideas and speedy implementation.

Unlike most financial firms, there’s no CEO, chief operating officer, chief technology officer, or any manager on the team. “We thought, ‘What if we put someone in their 20s on equal footing with someone in their 40s?’” Qi says. “The ideas flow rapidly when everyone has a voice. It allows us to adapt to the fast-changing landscape of our industry, ahead of everyone else.”

Domeyard’s clients include institutions, family offices, and the occasional high-net-worth individual. Due diligence is a two-way street, and the firm doesn’t take on just any client. Instead, Domeyard seeks a limited and controlled client base.

“We’ve had to turn away investors in the past. Our fund has limited capacity, so we have to be extremely selective,” Qi says.

Currently, the company is expanding its presence in multiple markets, spreading out its regulatory exposure and risk. This involves managing more data than a big data startup—petabytes of information that would typically require hundreds of employees to manage at other tech companies.

“A big misconception about high-frequency trading is that all you need to do is create a good trading strategy, spend millions on server equipment, hire a bunch of programmers, and you can magically become profitable. It’s a lot more difficult than that.” Qi says.

“We have to be ahead of the game from a regulatory, technology, strategy, HR, and legal standpoint,” she says. “We also test the limits of many areas across computer science, math, and finance.”

Looking back on her time as an undergraduate at MIT, Qi recalls that students would hold late night sessions where they built servers in their rooms and gathered to talk, brainstorm, and execute ideas into the twilight hours.

“At 3 a.m., at MIT, that’s when their brains are working the most,” Qi says about MIT students. “After school, at night, that’s when you find inspiration for your ideas.” To Qi and her co-founders, who took advantage of the time difference to trade at the opening of the German markets, they had already begun the new day.