The Most in Demand Programming Languages on Wall Street
Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein raised some eyebrows last year when he said that banks are, in essence, technology companies. But the fact is, roughly 25% of Goldman’s staff work in technology – more than in any other sector.
With analytics, mobile and web security poised to be major priorities for banks in 2015, tech departments on Wall Street should only continue to grow. But where will all the hiring occur? The key is to look at the programming languages that banks are, and aren’t, using.
We conducted an informal survey with banking technology recruiters to see what their clients are asking for most. Here’s what those who went on record said.
The clear runaway winner has been the most sought after programming language for years on Wall Street. Recruiters told us two years ago that investment banks were thirsty for Java developers, and little has changed.
“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 modelling, added John Reed, senior executive director for Robert Half Technology.
The reason for the all the fervour 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.
Finishing in a virtual tie were C++ and C#.
“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.
Like Java, C# can be used in a variety of projects, particularly data simulations and modelling. 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.
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. Moreover, given its performance and usability, Python is fast-becoming the language of choice for ‘red hot modellers’ in comparison to C++.”
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.
However, unlike Java, C++ and C#, along with SQL, Python doesn’t provide much at the negotiating table, simply due to the ease of learning the language.
“From a hiring perspective, most hiring managers are willing to forfeit Python proficiency on the basis that most skilled programmers should find it easy to pick it up,” Butler said.
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."