Ranking the most in-demand programming languages in banking technology

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It's rare that developers in banking are armed with only one programming language. Now, the demand is for 'full-stack' developers who can bring multiple programming language skills. Nonetheless, the gatekeepers in HR want to see one or two specific skills in order to pass a resume through to the hiring manager.

So for the third consecutive year, we combed through our database over the last 12 months to find which programming languages are included in the most job postings on our site as well as the number of candidates who currently possess those skills. The results reveal the most in-demand tech skills in banking along with the current level of competition in the market.

While banks are thirsty for high-level tech talent, the market became even more crowded this year. The same was true when we compared 2017 totals to the previous year. More jobs are available, but the competition for roles that require non-niche programming languages continues to increase. Perhaps this could be due to the fact that banks are now hiring more senior software engineers and technologists from out of the industry than in previous years. J.P. Morgan just acknowledged this week that 40% of their senior tech hires are poached from traditional technology companies, as opposed to rival banks.

Either way, some programming skills are more in-demand than others. These are the hottest languages in the financial sector right now.

C++: 15.5 candidates for every available job

In what is perhaps a bit of a surprise on the surface, C++ expertise appears to provide the best odds of landing a programming job in financial services. Yes, it’s an older language, but that’s part of what makes it a more in-demand skill at the moment. C++ is the backbone for many banks’ legacy systems that are still in use today, but there’s a dearth of specialists as it’s not as common with younger programmers. It’s also enjoyed a renaissance of sorts with the influx of high-speed trading due to the need to process high volumes of data.

As a result, C++ developers find themselves with leverage that they likely didn’t think they’d have several years ago.

Python: 26 candidates for every available job

Used primarily for pricing, risk management and trade management platforms, Python has progressively become one of the go-to programming languages at investment banks and hedge funds, replacing Java in many instances. The number of jobs mentioning Python as a desired skill has nearly tripled over the last year-and-a-half – from 270 to more than 800. However, the number of candidates who have experience working with Python has skyrocketed during that time.

In December of 2016, the last time we did this research, there were only 14 candidates for every job. Now there are 26. At the time, we were told the supply wasn’t meeting up to the demand. The playing field currently appears more level. That said, a growing percentage of people who have experience with Python aren’t necessarily competing for programming jobs.

Python is great for creating analytic tools and quant models, according to Gina Schiller, managing director at New York headhunter Jay Gaines & Company. It’s unique modeling capabilities have caught the eye of analysts, traders and researchers, who find Python a helpful tool in their own realm. In fact, Citigroup just started offering Python coding classes to banking analysts and traders as part of its continuing education program. The idea didn’t come from the bank; employees were the ones who expressed interest.

While it’s impossible for us to quantify the number of jobs and resumes that reference the R language due to the simplicity of its name, R is often used in conjunction with Python and is also very popular, though not quite as ubiquitous. High-frequency/low-latency trading funds use R for statistical computing to run simulations and predictive analysis. A quick perusing of job postings requiring experience with Python usually ask for exposure to R.

Java: 29.8 candidates for every job

Unlike with Python and C++, the number of jobs requiring Java has gone down over the last 18 months – from 460 to 346 – despite banks’ acute focus on hiring tech talent. Once the golden child of investment banks, Java has often been replaced by Python and R, which are known to be faster, more flexible and easier to use for current projects. And because of its popularity just a few years ago, there are plenty of people with Java experience.

C#: 37.6 candidates for every job

C# experience has also seen a small drop in demand due to new requirements in the current trading landscape. “C# is still in use but now pretty much only for quanty, low-latency things,” said Christian Glover Wilson, vice president of technology and strategy at Tigerspike. The one positive is that the market isn’t flooded with C# experts. But that hasn’t made up for the lack of current demand.

Matlab: 106 candidates for every job

Used primarily for quant research, Matlab has virtually been overtaken by R. Only around 150 job postings mention Matlab, and there are thousands and thousands of people with the experience.

Have a confidential story, tip, or comment you’d like to share? Contact: btuttle@efinancialcareers.com

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