Advancing Leaders and Building Careers at IMC Trading

How three individuals made the leap from interns to heads of trading desks early in their careers

Written by Brigid Hogan
Published on Jan. 31, 2024
Advancing Leaders and Building Careers at IMC Trading
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Advancing from intern to head of trading desk may sound like a decades-long career journey, but for three talented individuals at IMC Trading, that path has been dynamic and fast-paced.

“The whole organization at IMC takes a very long-term view toward the careers of employees,” U.S. Options Desk Head Eric Blachut told Built In. “Managers are pushed to give opportunities to work on different roles and teams — even if it requires taking time to learn and adjust and isn’t the highest short-term efficiency.”

Over the course of his career at IMC Trading, Blachut credits support from leaders and coaches as key to his own advancement and as one of the elements that sets a career at the company apart.

“Early on, I didn’t have that much appreciation for managing and leading as a skill. Now, I see how much of a difference it makes if done well,” he said.

U.S. Options Desk Head Jeff Zhang — who, like Blachut, also rose the ranks quickly at IMC — agreed. “Looking across IMC, it’s abundantly clear that the culture here is one that simultaneously supports people but also challenges them to live up to their full potential,” he said.

For Zhang, the personal approach to development makes the company a particularly compelling environment for those looking to maximize their ability to grow.

“Leads here regularly have conversations with reports about their ambitions and are always looking for new opportunities to put in front of people,” he said. “In the rare case there isn’t an opportunity, we look to create a role or project that fits the person, rather than trying to put the person in a role that may not utilize their full potential.”

We look to create a role or project that fits the person, rather than trying to put the person in a role that may not utilize their full potential.”

 

Another IMC fast-rising leader, U.S. Options Desk Head Joe Kleinhans, added that those who are ready to solve meaningful and demanding problems early in their careers are well-prepared to succeed at IMC Trading.

“Be hungry to make an impact and embrace the mentality switch that needs to happen transitioning from school to industry,” he advised others on a similar path. “There are far fewer clearly defined answers, and unlike in school, you have more scope to decide what opportunities you want to seize and how much responsibility you are going to step up and own.”

While Blachut, Zhang and Kleinhans exemplify the drive and ability that allow a head of trading to succeed, their stories of advancement and excellence aren’t unique at the company. IMC Trading’s focus on promoting and developing talent from within the organization encourages leaders to seek the next generation of those with the potential to lead.

Built In sat down with these three young leaders to hear more about their work, ambitions and experience at IMC Trading.

 

Jeff Schear Visuals
Jeff Schear Visuals

 

Navigating Change on the Path to Success

Eric Blachut
U.S. Options Desk Head • IMC Trading

Blachut is no stranger to a challenging ascent. Outside the office, he’s often found in the mountains — skiing, hiking or climbing. His experience at IMC Trading has been of a similarly dramatic scale since he first joined as an intern six years ago.

As a college student, Blachut had his heart set on completing a doctorate in economics but decided to spend his final summer trying something new. Over the course of his IMC internship, he soon found his focus shifting from academia.

“Everyone that I met was very driven and smart and were being given resources to tackle difficult and engaging problems,” he said. “Stories of people who had moved teams and offices during their careers were really attractive to me. That flexibility is enabled by the teams all working together collaboratively.”

Blachut has seen that mobility in his own career and has traded three different products on different teams — equities, exchange-traded funds and index options. Shifting content areas and becoming proficient each time was a rewarding experience, not unlike the intellectual rigor that first drew him to graduate school. Even as Blachut has narrowed his focus, these challenges have continued to fuel his engagement in his work.

“Index options volatility has stayed my focus for the last three years,” he said. “It’s provided another experience to learn new markets and products, a challenge that I’ve always loved. I enjoy the process of understanding the idiosyncrasies and generalities of a new product: understanding which approaches will still apply and which need to be rethought.”

Shifting between products isn’t the only opportunity for mobility at IMC Trading. Blachut has also benefited from opportunities to visit the company’s international offices, where he has been able to work together with colleagues abroad.

“Everyone is encouraged to travel internationally to get exposure to new ideas and build relationships, and it helps that Amsterdam and Sydney are great cities to spend time in,” he said, referencing two of IMC’s global offices. “I encourage my team to find opportunities to go and spend time in other offices and get an appreciation for those markets and the ways our colleagues there are solving similar and different problems to the ones we work on in the United States.”

Ultimately, Blachut is grateful for the time and resources IMC Trading invests in team members.

“Much of the leadership in all areas of the business started their career at IMC and have grown into leaders via experience and coaching,” he said. “Seeing what it takes to turn a good trader into a good manager and leader has given the organization a lot of respect for leadership development.”

Seeing what it takes to turn a good trader into a good manager and leader has given the organization a lot of respect for leadership development.”

 

Jeff Schear Visuals
Jeff Schear Visuals

 

A Dynamic Approach to Advancement

Jeff Zhang
U.S. Options Desk Head • IMC Trading

From the time Zhang first interned at IMC Trading in 2016, he knew that with hard work, he could succeed within the organization, thanks to the caliber of his colleagues and the company’s collaborative and friendly culture.

Over time, he moved from trading US Treasury options through commodities and single stocks to the equities volatility desk. As he expanded his scope from that of an individual contributor to management to ultimately building out a larger desk, he saw his own capacity expand with support from the organization and his own drive to progress.

“I’ve always had a strong interest in the entrepreneurial aspects of trading,” he said. “The dynamic nature of markets results in unique challenges everyday, week, month and year, and there’s always tons to learn.”

 

The dynamic nature of markets results in unique challenges everyday, week, month and year.”

 

This high-octane environment doesn’t lead to competitive climbing at IMC Trading, though. According to Zhang, the culture supports individual growth in order to help the entire team thrive. That investment in development starts right away, when new employees attend a three-day offsite program, and extends over the course of their careers, as employees access a variety of training and development opportunities. Zhang found LEAP, a two-week global leadership program culminating in a case study and business pitch to the management board, particularly valuable.

Zhang has also found support in less-structured ways. From leaders offering real responsibility early in a career to managers staying in tune with reports’ goals and ambitions, IMC Trading’s culture showcases a commitment to ongoing and continuous development.

“I have always appreciated IMC’s willingness to believe that people will grow into the opportunities presented to them,” he said.

 

Jeff Schear Visuals
Jeff Schear Visuals

 

Room to Fail and Opportunity to Grow

Joe Kleinhans
U.S. Options Desk Head • IMC Trading

A short two-week “winternship” in 2015 was all Kleinhans needed to know he wanted to pursue the opportunity to grow at IMC Trading, and he soon returned for two summer internships.

“Even as an intern, I was able to work on and contribute to real world problems, and by the end of my first internship, I got to see changes that I’d contributed to make a production trading impact that we could quantify,” he said. “IMC’s culture of giving people responsibility, room to take risks and fail permeated all the way down to the internship.”

IMC’s culture of giving people responsibility, room to take risks and fail permeated all the way down to the internship.”

 

That culture of responsibility helped his career accelerate even further as he took on increasing responsibilities, managing busy equity options like Amazon and Tesla.

IMC’s emphasis on mentorship and the opportunity to move between roles and offices empowered Kleinhans to shift from an individual contributor to a more people-oriented role, as well as the opportunity to spend six months working from Amsterdam, learning new trading approaches and experiencing a different side of the company’s culture.

“Stretching by working alongside peers who are as good or better than you is one of the most important ways to continue to grow,” he said. “My Amsterdam move also allowed me to step outside of my comfort zone onto a team where I had to prove myself again, which helped to make sure I continued learning.”

Kleinhans is now focused on passing that same support and room to grow along to those on his team — possibilities open to any ambitious new hire joining the team.

“As people have moved into new roles, it has created a lot of opportunities for others to step up as well, and the most important thing I see in my future is supporting my team’s growth,” he said. “I think we have the right people and they’re doing a great job, I’ll just need to give them the space, responsibility and support — and I’m confident they’ll deliver.”

 

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images provided by IMC Trading.

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