Technology may be helping to displace equities traders in Hong Kong, but global banks there are ramping up their recruitment of technologists to build and run their equities platforms.
In 2017, for example, Credit Suisse was hiring about 50 – mainly Hong Kong-based – technologists into its Asian equity derivatives operations. “The business has an almost infinite hunger for good engineers,” Paul Gresham, CIO of APAC solutions IT at the Swiss bank, told us.
This year, banks careers websites are awash with equities technology vacancies. Goldman Sachs has 13 equities tech roles in Hong Kong, about a third of total local openings within its engineering division. It wants, for example, software developers for equities client onboarding (using its in-house Slang programming language) and data engineers for building “big data solutions to store and analyse data for the equities trading business”.
Other global firms hiring in Hong Kong include Bank of America (building its equities trading data and analytics team) and J.P. Morgan, which is adding to its global cash equities technology group (C# skills and “some experience” of Python needed).
“Asia has historically lagged behind the US and Europe in the automation of markets activities,” says former equities trader Warwick Pearmund, now associate director of emerging technologies at Pure Search in Hong Kong. “But banks are now hiring technologists in Hong Kong because this gap is closing rapidly, not only to fit in with global automation trends, but also to take advantage of regional initiatives such as China’s Stock Connect with Hong Kong.”
Banks are building “next generation trading systems” in Hong Kong using machine learning, artificial intelligence and latest in GUI (graphical user interface) technologies, says former programmer Vince Natteri, now director of recruitment at banking-tech search firm Pinpoint Asia. Equities-tech roles usually sit with the business and are not particularly vulnerable to being offshored away from Hong Kong, he adds.
Natteri says banks in Hong Kong are looking for candidates with “good fundamental programming skills (e.g. data structures and memory management) and a strong academic interest in trending technologies (e.g. DevOps and machine learning)”.
As recruitment surges, finding equities-tech talent is becoming more difficult. “Developers are in high demand, and demand outstrips supply. This partly comes down to Asia historically lagging the West in automation, ” says Pearmund. “Senior people can attract very good salaries, especially where there are specific talent gaps, such as in Delta One trading.”
Although equities-tech vacancies typically prioritise people who've worked in equities before, talent shortages are increasingly forcing banks to widen their nets and assess candidates based on their programming skills.
Credit Suisse’s Gresham describes his bank’s recruitment drive as “tech first”, meaning he’s open to candidates not currently working in equities, or even in the finance sector. “In contrast to many banking-tech jobs, these are agile roles we’re hiring for, bordering on extreme programming. So we need highly technical candidates who are used to working in an agile environment and using their initiative,” he adds.
Meanwhile, senior in-house HR professionals from global banks told an eFinancialCareers roundtable in Hong Kong last month that they increasingly want to take on tech candidates from outside of banking.
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