The most sought-after programming language within US bulge bracket banks in Hong Kong isn’t Java or C++…it’s Python.
We looked through the careers websites of Bank of America, Citi, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley, and found out what languages are in demand within their Hong Kong technology and quants vacancies. We then eliminated several languages that appeared in fewer than five jobs across all the firms. Ruby, Swift and R, for example, didn’t make the cut, while PHP and Rust aren’t required within any of the banks’ Hong Kong-based roles, despite an expectation that the latter has a bright future in the banking sector. That left us with six languages, as shown in the chart below.
Python’s narrow victory (it’s a requirement for 29% of jobs demanding a top-six language) in our popularity ranking isn’t that surprising. Used primarily for pricing, risk management and trade management platforms – all important sectors in Hong Kong – Python has progressively become one of the go-to programming languages at investment banks globally, replacing Java in many instances.
At JP Morgan in Hong Kong, for example, knowledge of Python is called for beyond pure coding roles. It’s a must-have skill for a current ED-level opening in quantitative research (equity finance) and is also now needed if you want to work as a systematic trader within equities derivatives structuring. In the US, Citi has even started offering Python coding classes to banking analysts and traders.
Java (28%) is almost as popular as Python at US banks in Hong Kong. At Goldman Sachs, Java is widely used across almost all tech and strats (quant) roles – from securities trade processing to cloud automation. The language is also sought after as Goldman builds its FAST unit, a cross-divisional team that develops analytics tools for the front-office, in Hong Kong.
C++ is the other major language on our chart – it’s needed in 20% of roles requiring programming expertise. Candidates who can code in C++ are in short supply because banks prefer C# and Java for their main trading platforms and Java is the dominant language taught in local computer science degrees, Peter Barker, a Senior Director at Gravitas Recruitment in Hong Kong, told us. But banks still need the language within the newly hot area of low-latency exchange connectivity. “There’s now a dearth of skills in C++ in HK, especially candidates with low-latency skills. A number of banks are hiring people from telecoms or hardware firms to fill this skills gap,” he adds.
If you’re looking to learn a new language that might be more sought after in the future, try Scala. Scala made our top-six, while other niche languages came nowhere near. “A lot of banks in Hong Kong are looking for Scala developers. Scala is a functional programming language, which both IBs and fintech firms want to use right now,” says Vince Natteri, director of tech search firm Pinpoint Asia in Hong Kong. “It’s become more popular over the past couple of years. Many Java developers are also starting to learn Scala to boost their careers.”
Which of the five big US banks are doing most of the hiring within Scala and the other five languages? There’s one answer for all languages: Goldman Sachs. The bank, which uses Hong Kong as one of its global tech hubs, boasts at least half of the current bulge-bracket vacancies in each language, as shown in the table below.
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