Investment banks are technology firms. So says Lloyd Blankfein at Goldman Sachs and Marianne Lake at J.P. Morgan. Both banks have thousands of technologists and have prioritised IT hiring over most other divisions. Across the street, IT specialists with deep knowledge of programming languages are in demand.
We conducted asked banking technology recruiters name which programming languages are most in demand in the banking sector. Here’s what they said.
Java has been the most sought after programming language for years on Wall Street.
“Java developers are needed for anything from low latency execution and order management systems to in-house risk and valuation platforms,” said Jared Butler, head of financial technology recruitment for North America at Selby Jennings. Java is also really well-suited for data simulations and modeling, added John Reed, senior executive director for Robert Half Technology.
The reason for the all the fervor around Java is two-fold. There’s a high demand for the skillset along with a dearth of qualified candidates. Late last year, our resume database contained only seven candidates for every job that required the skill, the lowest ratio among all major programming languages.
Reed said that Java developers can demand up to a 10% premium on salary compared to others in the market.
Python has come a long way since it was first used in banking via Bank of America's Quartz program and J.P. Morgan's Athena system. Python is great for creating analytic tools and quant models – critical tools that contribute to investment banks' and hedge funds' trading strategies, according to Schiller.
In addition, Python is becoming better known for being easier to use and faster to program than the traditional languages, said Butler, who offered up a number of reasons why it could replace the aforementioned languages in popularity, particularly in investment banking.
“Firstly, programmers are able to do as much with 10 lines of Python code as they are with 20 lines of C++ , and with a much lower margin for error,” he said. “Given the increase in regulations/ best practices, you can see the appeal in using it from this perspective.”
Plus, as technologists crave greater exposure to the business side of banking, Python has become more popular. It enables programmers to better collaborate on projects with quants, researchers and analysts, Butler said.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch and J.P. Morgan are still leading the charge in terms of recruiting Python developers. “Bank of America and J.P. Morgan, who largely build most of their trading systems in Python and are actively hiring on the street, are always on the lookout for Python developers, but other banks and financial firms, in particular fintechs, are starting to look for more and more programmers who can code in Python,” said Nick Vermeire, a senior technical recruiter at Pencom Systems.
“C++ continues to be the go-to language for high volume/high frequency trading, simply because it’s the most efficient tool to build an extensively optimized backtester and execution system in order to process the high volumes of data,” said Butler.
Schiller agreed, adding that C++ is also often used for building applications running on many banks' legacy systems. “Due to the high cost of moving to new technologies there will continue to be significant demand for those who can program in languages compatible with the legacy environment,” she said.
Like Java, C# can be used in a variety of projects, particularly data simulations and modeling. It had the second lowest ratio of candidates to jobs in our database, giving qualified job seekers plenty of leverage when it comes to pay. Reed said that C# developers can also demand a 9% to 10% bump in pay over colleagues with expertise in other languages. SQL is the third language that tends to offer terrific bargaining power, he said.
“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.
Other languages that got some votes include SQL, PHP and ETL.
“We are seeing strategic hires from associate to executive level for candidates carrying an array of skills, from older ETL technologies such as Informatica to more modern big data-related tools like Hadoop tech stack, HBase, HDFS, MapReduce, Pig, Hive, Impala, Flume and Cloud,” Butler said. “ETL technologies continues to be important for successful data warehousing and the fat-cutting financial data used by investment bank trading arms globally.”
On the other hand, demand for Microsoft's Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) is waning, while HTML5 is on the upswing, as are Hadoop, Cassandra and Scala.
“There is a lot demand for big data and data-processing technologies such as Hadoop, Cassandra and Scala, and we’re seeing more and more banks adopt this,” Vermeire said. “C++ and C# tend to be staple development languages, but there has been perhaps less appetite for front-end Microsoft development – WPF – and more demand for HTML5 skills.”
Vermeire seconded that.
“We've also seen a huge surge in demand for big data technologies as companies are dealing with massive amounts of increasing data on a daily basis,” he said. “Very often these are required as supplementary technologies in addition to core programming languages such as Java or Python. “The most in-demand big data technologies are Cassandra, Cassandra, Spark and Hadoop.”