Banks are working hard to attract technologists, offering Google-style office space, flexible working arrangements and the promise of innovative projects to ensure they can compete with the tech firms. However, to assume that technologists are universally in demand across the financial sector would still be an over-estimation of the market. Here, according to financial technology recruiters are the six skills banks want to see now.
Forget the supposed future demand for data scientists in the banking sector, firms are still struggling to hire those who can help keep their information in line currently. In recent months there have been a few moves at the top of the data management teams of banks – notably Mark Clare from JPMorgan to HSBC to head its wealth and retail data team and Vincent Benita, who is now chief data officer for BNP Paribas CIB fixed income division.
“There are a number of relatively new CIOs who are keen to bring in new CDOs, which then filters down to greater demand for data management specialists,” says Paul Bennie, managing director of banking technology recruiters Bennie MacLean.
HFT firms may suddenly have the glamour tag after the furore around Michael Lewis’s Flash Boys, but put aside this notion for a second and remember that it’s the techies that are central to these organisations. Quant developers with knowledge of C++ are in demand, according to Cem Baris, associate director for technology at Morgan McKinley. Six figures salaries are possible for the right people, which is a far cry away from the sort of multi-million dollar packages for developers when HFT was in its infancy, but still among the higher paying tech roles.
In the retail sector banks are battling to get the best people to develop an app that will blow away the competition, and as a result user-experience designers, information architects and interface designers are in demand, says Baris. “Mobile banking is currently a massive growth area, with many of the big players significantly increasing headcount within their digital departments,” he says. “Hiring managers are looking for candidates with experience in high-profile projects outside of banking, such as telecoms and e-commerce or retail, who are often ahead of the curve.”
JPMorgan uses Python for its Athena cross-market risk management and trading system, Bank of America Merrill Lynch has embraced it for its Quartz platform and the development language is fast becoming de-rigour for anyone working in investment banking. “It’s a big project for a lot of banks to re-engineer their trading platforms using Python and we’ve seen a big uptick in demand for developers with this skill-set this year,” says Andrew Keene, managing director of banking technology recruiters Thomson Keene.
Ask any recruiter what's driving tech hiring in the banking sector right now and the won't point to any grand new innovation or IT fad - it's all down to regulation. "Regulation is the word we hear all the time. It is driving everything," says Stephen Grant, managing director of recruiters Cititec. Whether that's KYC and AML related compliance systems on the retail banking side, or ensuring that systems are set up to deal with reporting standards required under capital adequacy regulations in Europe or reformative rules in the U.S in investment banks, any techie who can demonstrate knowledge and understanding of IT from a compliance point of view is hot stuff. Developers are being hired, but it's the business analysts and project managers who can lead change initiatives across the business who are being snapped up, says Keene. This has been going on for years, and shows no sign of stopping.
JPMorgan wants to hire for its 'feature teams', recruiting technologists with a range of skills able to work flexibly across development, testing, architecture and modelling. SocGen is looking for an Agile team leader, while Deutsche Bank is also beefing up its team and looking for an understanding of Agile methodologies. The days of banks working under the 'waterfall' model in tech projects, where analysis, design and development of projects are completed before testing and user acceptance are rolled out, are slowly being extinguished. Agile methodology, employing an iterative model where development and acceptance are carried out throughout the project, is fast becoming the way of working in banking tech, and knowledge of this is essential.