Robin Berkelaar, Senior Quantitative Analyst
My career is a textbook example of a 180-degree pivot. I used to be a physicist – now I’m Senior Quantitative Analyst at Rabobank. In other words, a real quant. I worked at a Japanese university and at CERN in Switzerland, these days I work at a bank. I can’t say that choice was part of a carefully considered plan or thought-out career path. But when I discovered Rabobank could offer me the challenges I was looking for, I wanted to find out more. Now intricate, complex projects that require deep thinking fill my time.
A whole new world
For four years, I looked at how nanobubbles dissolve in liquids. It took many hours of hard work and a lot of persistence. Imagine my disappointment when it turned out those bubbles weren’t nanobubbles at all, but polymer drops. All that effort had been a waste of time. Of course, that’s what physics is all about: you never know what the outcome of your research will be. But I had learned an important lesson: I realized I didn’t want to live with that level of uncertainty anymore. I wanted to work on something with tangible results.’
Resource for investors
‘At Rabobank, I work on an online tool for investors that provides our customers with extra insights. A product people use every day. It gives a clear picture of the risks involved in an investment and calculates the likely return. I’m a backend developer, responsible for embedding the mathematical formulas that answer users’ questions. The algorithms used to update the tool with the latest market developments are probably the most important feature. Next to that tool, I work on Factor ’99, taking care of the mathematical input at the backend. Factor is a different kind of tool, designed to manage risk.
It did take some time to get used to being employed by a bank instead of an academic body. At university, you usually work with people of your own age. The team here is much more diverse in terms of age, background and interests. I’m often in contact with people in other departments at Rabobank, so I get to see projects from different perspectives. It’s helped me to see that a project’s impact is different from person to person. It’s much more of a cooperative effort than I initially thought.’
Investing in yourself
‘I realized it was just the beginning of a long road when I started working for Rabobank. In fact, I had to really buckle down to get to where I am now. I took a three-year course in financial analysis, including challenging international exams. After all the hard work and studying involved, I am proud that I can now call myself a Chartered Financial Analyst. The bank was a great support throughout the course. First of all, because they footed the bill as my employer. But it was more than that: they really gave me the time and space to evolve, something they do for all their staff. Whatever your ambition, Rabobank will be there to encourage you to grow.
There seem to be countless opportunities available. You could present a ground-breaking idea through the Moonshot program and get the chance to develop it. Or spend your ‘free time’ researching improvements, innovations or better ways of getting things done. The amount of work on offer as part of your role is limitless, and you’ll be able to choose what you want to focus on. You could even make that career pivot within Rabobank. It’s certainly big enough! Maybe most importantly, you’ll be given room to discover those opportunities.’