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Nick Firoozye, Instructor - Algorithmic Trading Strategies

Nick Firoozye

Dr. Nick Firoozye is a data scientist & statistician with over 20 years of experience in the finance industry, in both buy and sell-side firms, largely in research. He started his career in Lehman Brothers doing MBS/ABS modeling, heading teams in portfolio strategy and EM quant research, later taking a variety of senior roles at Goldman Sachs, and DeutscheBank, and at the asset managers, Sanford Bernstein, and Citadel. He is currently Managing Director and Head of Global Derivative Strategy, part of the Quantitative Strategy Group, at Nomura. He is currently an Honorary Senior Lecturer in Computer Science at University College London, focusing on Robust Machine Learning in finance. He recently co-authored a book, entitled Managing Uncertainty, Mitigating Risk, about the role of uncertainty and imprecise probability in finance, in light of the many recent financial crises, and he is writing a book on Algorithmic Trading Strategies based on his recent Ph.D. course on the same topic offered at UCL and current online course at Experfy.

Instructor: Nick Firoozye

Analysis, Design and Confirmation of Quantitative Trading Strategies

  • Course covers the underlying principles behind algorithmic trading, covering principles and analyses of trend-following, carry, value, mean-reversion, relative value and other more obscure strategies like short-gamma.
  • Instructor has over 20 years of experience in the finance industry, in both buy and sell-side firms He started his career at Lehman Brothers doing MBS/ABS modeling and later taking a variety of senior roles at Goldman Sachs, DeutscheBank, Sanford Bernstein,and Citadel. 

Duration: 6h 6m

Course Description

Systematic Quant funds are a rapidly rising part of the hedge fund and smart beta world. Although there is a large focus on high-frequency by academics, medium-to-low frequency algo trading accounts for over $350bn AUM and is the highest growth segment of the HF world. This algorithmic trading course covers the underlying principles behind algorithmic trading, including analyses of trend-following, carry, value, mean-reversion, and relative value strategies. We will discuss the rationale for the strategy, standard strategy designs, the pros and cons of various design choices, and the gains from diversification in portfolio strategies. Finally, since the industry is plagued by overfitting and resulting poor performance, we will discuss p-hacking (or 'financial charlatanism') and various strategies to avoid it.

What am I going to get from this course?

Professionals - Understand the mechanics of standard implementations of the single asset and portfolio based risk-premia trading strategies. Recognize pros and cons of various approaches to designing strategies and the common pitfalls encountered by algorithmic traders. Be able to devise new and improved algorithmic 

Algorithmic Traders - Recognize the reasons commonly-used strategies work and when they don't. Understand the statistical properties of strategies and discern the mathematically proven from the empirical.  Acquire an understanding of methods to prevent overfitting.

Academics/students -  Gain familiarity with the broad area of algorithmic trading strategies. Master the underlying theory and mechanics behind the most common strategies. Acquire the understanding of principals and context necessary for new academic research into the large number of open questions in the area. 

Prerequisites and Target Audience

What will students need to know or do before starting this course?

 Course work to include (or familiarity with the following topics):
  • Undergrad ODE and PDE (math physics or engineering/Fourier expansion based)
    • Some Stochastic Differential Equations (SDEs), although some will be covered in the course
  • Basic undergrad Analysis
    • Optimization
    • Numerical linear algebra

  • Statistics (taught in a statistics, econometrics, machine learning or signal processing  course)
    • Familiarity with some time-series and difference equations

  • Coding
    • Python or Matlab or R
    • OOP

  • Finance:  Familiarity with financial products: Futures, Equities, Bonds, Commodities
  • Helpful but not necessary: Black-Scholes Option Pricing

Who should take this course? Who should not?

Educational Background

Bachelors or Masters degree
  •      in Physical Sciences and Engineering
  •      in Computer Science with a firm understanding of mathematics
  •      in Economics or Finance with a firm knowledge of econometrics


Module 1: Course Overview

Lecture 1 Overview

We discuss algo trading strategies and their recent context in the world of alternative investment management

Lecture 2 Context and Background

Introduction to the area, Algo as opposed to High-Frequency/Low Latency Trading, and areas of growth. The goals of the course, for students/academics, professionals, and algo traders, and general background to the course.

Lecture 3 What the course is Not and the Role of Data Science

What the course is not. The Role of Data science and ML - do data scientists need to know about 'canonical' strategies? Can they just start fresh? We argue that some of the most commonly used strategies give good guidance for data scientists whose techniques rarely work "out of the box" and are especially prone to problems in the area of algo trading strategies.

Lecture 4 Prerequisites and Syllabus
Lecture 5 Syllabus

We describe the basics of the syllabus. Some of these materials are covered very thoroughly, while others are covered quite quickly as methods in use / approaches to consider in devising and refining strategies. We cover Background, Momentum, Mean Reversion, Carry, Value, Basic Portfolio Strategies, and the important concept of Overfitting, focusing on the mathematical and statistical justification, formulation and properties of each strategy.

Resource 1 Slides on Introduction, Background Material, Goals and Prerequisites and Syllabus

Module 2: Industry Overview and Math Review

Lecture 6 Industry Overview

Alternatives, Hedge Funds, CTAs and Quant Funds. What size and what numbers? How much are they growing? Where are the opportunities? From the top down look at the overall prospects of the industry where Algo Trading Strategies are employed.

Lecture 7 Tracking Funds
Lecture 8 Tracking Benchmarks
Lecture 9 Styles
Lecture 10 Algo Trading Strategy Infrastructure
Quiz 1 Intro Quiz on Background

Quiz on background and introduction

Resource 2 PDF Slides
Lecture 11 Review 2 ARMA Processes

We review basic Box-Jenkins method for ARMA models, look at characteristic polynomials, describe stationary vs nonstationary processes

Lecture 12 Review 1 - White noise and Brownian motion

We review some of the basic mathematics for timeseries including white noise and brownian motion

Lecture 13 Review 3 - Autocovariance, autocorrelation and criteria

We review the ACF and its relation to ARMA models, and start on criteria (AIC, BIC) as a means of doing model choice.

Lecture 14 Review 4 - Cross Validation, Bootstrap and solving SDEs

We touch on more computer intensive methods for doing model selection - cross validation, and finding standard errors-bootstrap. Finally, we discuss two most common method for solving SDEs in closed-form, muitipying constants and integration by parts/Ito's lemma

Quiz 2 Basic ARMA models

We go through some basic ARMA models and their ACFs

Module 3: Momentum / Trend Following

Lecture 15 Momentum - a first glance

We introduce the very basic intution behind momentum and how we would construct the most simplistic of strategies

Lecture 16 Momentum Related Factoids 1

We discuss some of the properties and tradeoffs of momentum, many of which can be changed by strategy design.

Lecture 17 Momentum Factoids 2

Further factoids including examples of returns in practice

Lecture 18 Proving results about momentum 1

We look at discrete time versions of momentum and seek to prove that skewness changes by horizon

Lecture 19 Proving results about momentum 2

This is a whiteboard section on the basics of the skewness over horizon results (Martin-Zou), going through the proof, showing that the concepts are relatively easy (even if the algebra is a little tedious).

Lecture 20 Skewness - why is it so strange?

Having proved results about the skewness of momentum returns over different horizons, we apply it to an exponentially weighted moving average (EWMA) rule, showing how the peak skewness is related to the effective lookback (in our case, the "span") of the EWMA.

Lecture 21 Practical Momentum - Different methods for similar results

We describe the most commonly used methods in the industry, from Kalman Filters to Moving Averages to ARIMA models. Used properly, most of these models can attain almost the same performance.

Lecture 22 Coding Momentum 1

We introduce an ipython notebook. It takes data from Quandl (and some from Yahoo finance) including SPX, SPTR, and Effective Fed Funds. We use these to construct S&P 500 excess returns, and compare to SPX. We then devise a strategy for momentum.

Lecture 23 Coding Momentum 2

Computing relevant stats (Sharpes and Skewness) over different horizons

Lecture 24 Momentum variants, and fads and fancies in models

Cross sectional vs Timeseries momentum. Which is better? Where are each of them used? Why should we know them both? Fads and fancies in momentum modelling. Models vs Method.

Lecture 25 Momentum - capped, floored and otherwise altered signals

We look at Winsorising or capping and flooring the signals (sometimes needed to prevent too large capacity utilisation), using thresholds, etc. These typically detract from the skewness, but they could help the overall performance. We look at various methods and discuss their pros and cons and how to measure them.

Lecture 26 Readings for further study

We give links to and summarize the handful of most important papers on statistical aspects of momentum trading for further study. Being well-known, these are also the most cited papers, and so any new academic research can be found (using google scholar) just by searching preprints and papers which cite these important studies.

Lecture 27 Momentum - Summary

Summarizing the main points we made in section 2 on Momentum

Module 4: Mean Reversion / Change-points

Lecture 28 Mean Reversion Overview and Time-scales of trades

Overview of MR, and the timescales/horizons associated with MR, Momentum and Value

Lecture 29 Putting timescales all together and where to search for history

A continuation of the previous lecture, putting the timescales all together, and looking to ancient history (if need be)

Lecture 30 Mean Reversion in action

The typical features of an MR trading strategy, what to expect and what to be careful with

Lecture 31 Rationales for Mean Reversion

Various competing (or not so competing) rationales for mean reversion: Liquidity Provision and Overreaction

Lecture 32 Vol and Mean Reversion

Volatility and Mean Reversion, the theory and empirics behind their relationship

Lecture 33 Liquidity - References

A few of the most important academic papers on liquidity

Lecture 34 Mean Reversion and Unit Root Tests, Intro

An analysis of the types of behaviour we want to discern between, focusing on mean reverting vs unit root processes.

Lecture 35 Augmented Dickey Fuller Tests

ADF Tests are the most commonly used unit root tests out there. We introduce their use and limitations

Lecture 36 KPSS Tests

KPSS tests turn H0 and H1 on their heads, testing for mean-reversion. They also have their limitations

Lecture 37 Variance Ratio Tests

We introduce variance ratio tests, explore their use and misuses

Lecture 38 Cointegration and Johansen Test

Cointegration and Engle Granger testing, and the more thorough Johansen test

Lecture 39 Harvey Nyblom Tests and Shortcomings

Harvey Nyblom is to Johansen as KPSS is to ADF and we explore H-N Tests and then the shortcomings for all testing methods

Lecture 40 Power, Type I and Type II errors

power of tests, confidence intervals, type 1 and type 2 errors

Lecture 41 RV Trades

RV Trade ideas and MR

Lecture 42 Filters

Lecture 43 Changepoints - Overview

Overview and more classical approaches to changepoint detection. These are useful for piecewise linear fits to data to establish trending means and mean reversion to these trending means.

Lecture 44 Changepoints - Lasso based tools

Using the lasso regression to detect trends, we can identify breakpoints and extract trends at the same time. While not always the easiest method, regularisation methods like lasso are helpful in many circumstances and also are a decent framework to think of the underlying problems.

Lecture 45 Changepoints - sequential binary segmentation, switching kalman filters and summary

We follow up with a very practical and implementable tool - sequential binary segmentation (and Wild binary segmentation)

Resource 3
Quiz 3

Module 5: Carry, Value, and Portfolio Strategies

Lecture 46 Carry - First definitions

We define carry and give a rationale in terms of P vs Q measures

Lecture 47 P vs Q measure

We continue the discussion of the differences between P measure (physical world) vs Q measure (for pricing and hedging derivatives). While Q (where spot rates will always drift towards forwards or - 'forwards are realised') is an interesting construct, it is merely that. We have to use it to price and hedge (or 'risk manage') derivatives. Realistically, in incomplete markets, Q is not actually unique and is merely a useful construct. Realistically speaking, spot rates tend to stay put, and random walks are much more likely than having realised forwards. If spot rates are martingales/random walks, this is a perfectly decent rationale for studying carry.

Lecture 48 Defining Carry

Defining carry-- what is it? Why do we care about it? What is a positive carry position and what is a negative carry position? What about commodities?

Lecture 49 Carry for Swaps (and a little for bonds)

We define carry for swaps, something not as easily available, and also a little bit for bonds. Bonds, however, are altogether more difficult, since you need to know bond-specific funding rates (term repo rates), so we mostly pursue carry for swaps.

Lecture 50 Carry for Futures, FX, Equities and Derivatives

We briefly describe carry for Futures (including commodity and equity) and FX and for the less well covered area of Derivatives.

Lecture 51 Carry - Summary

We summarize the exploration of carry

Lecture 52 Value

We define value, its use and how it differs from Equities (where it is well defined and followed regularly) to fixed income, fx and commodities. Value, with its longer-term mean-reversion properties, is naturally orthogonal to momentum, and mean-reversion.

Lecture 53 Portfolio Strategies 1 - MVO

Mean variance optimisation as a guide to basics of portfolio strategy

Lecture 54 Portfolios - Testing weights

We present portfolio optimisation as a regression and describe F-tests for statistical significance of changes in portfolio weights.

Lecture 55 Portfolio Optimisation - Conditional Portfolios and other performance measures

We introduce conditional portfolios and optimisation to include dynamic reallocation. Using augmented portfolios allows us to consider dynamic signals in portfolio optimisation. Finally, we talk about the shortcomings of most MVO style portfolio optimisation, and introduce a number of the standard performance measures used in measurement and allocation problems.

Resource 4 Slides as PDF

Module 6: Overfitting

Lecture 56 Intro to Overfitting and the major issues

We introduce the problem and related issues of p-hacking, lack of reproducibility, and holdout overfitting in Kaggle competitions.

Lecture 57 Overfitting in Finance

Overfitting in finance is perhaps more problematic than any other field. While Amazon or Google could miss a few keyclicks by relying on spurious results, in finance, we could easily risk insolvency. Meanwhile, overfitting is altogether too common and recent studies have shown its prevalence.

Lecture 58 Dealing with overfitting - increasing backtest length

Bailey et al have proposed increasing backtest lengths to avoid overfitting. The method is illustrative but provides more of a rule of thumb. We describe the results of their paper on "Financial Charlatanism and Pseudo-Mathematics" and the concept of minimum backtest length

Lecture 59 Adjusted Sharpe Ratios and Multiple Hypothesis Tests

Harvey and Liu discuss the statistics of Sharpe ratios, converting to p-values (if Sharpe = E[Ret]/Std[Ret], the test is H0: E[Ret]=0). They then discuss multiple hypothesis testing and how one deals with it.

Lecture 60 Multiple Hypothesis Testing - Holm and Bonferroni

Ways of dealing with Multiple Hypothesis Testing - Holm and Bonferroni methods, somewhat more extreme than optimal but giving some good insight into means of adjusting p-values.

Lecture 61 Multiple Hypothesis Testing - BHY adjustments and Practical Methods to prevent overfitting

We describe the best method for controlling the rate of false discovery (FDR), the BHY adjustment and we talk about its impact on Sharpe Ratios based on number of strategies run and size of history available for backtest. Finally, we summarize the practical approaches to backtest overfitting.

Resource 5

Module 7: Course Summary

Lecture 62 Course Summary


10 Reviews

Jay J

December, 2016

Michael B

December, 2016

This course has given me a deeper understanding of algorithmic trading and its practice. Instructor's delivery is very clear and engaging. He seems very knowledgeable and passionate about the topics. It's worth every minute and every dollar. Highly recommended.

Richard D

May, 2017

A very useful course for finance trading people like me with engineering background. It helped me to sharpen my analytical skills in quantitative trading strategies. The instructor nicely explained the principles of algorithm trading and applying them for real-time solutions. The lectures were easy to understand with information provided on various pros and cons of approaches in designing strategies and understanding the pitfalls. As an algorithm trader the course helped me understand many small details of the statistical properties of strategies. I am really indebted to the instructure to make understand the many aspects of algorithms some of which I was not fully aware. All the topics of the lecture were very useful for me.

Tom O

May, 2017

Overall a very good course for those who want to pursues finance trading field. True to the statement made in the course, this course covers all fundamentals of hedge funds and trading funds and algorithm trading. I find it beneficial

Pavel P

May, 2017

Excellent course. As a trading professional involving funds, it helped me to brush up my theoretical knowledge in understanding implementation assets and portfolio based trading strategy.

Kliment M

July, 2017

I loved the way this subject matter was taught. There was some very useful advice, like the value of staying disciplined in adhering to the algorithm you have made up.

Fibinse X

July, 2017

In this course, you can learn how to read an academic paper. The explanations regarding what elements to skip through and what elements to pay attention to and discussed here. Also, the explanations for every strategy, introduction to the fundamental research and then how to implement the strategy is easy to understand

Juan Camilo M

July, 2017

I would like to say overall it is a good course, and particularly beneficial to the beginner. Good value for money spent on this course.

Maurice N

July, 2017

This course covers some trading programs that function in developing markets. This puts forth methods based on momentum crashes, momentum, persistence of earnings, price reversal, quality of earnings, behavioral biases, underlying business growth, and textual analysis of business reports.

Barry Y

March, 2019