There are many different roles in technology at investment banks and other organisations in the finance world. Some people focus on developing technological tools, while others manage projects or plan a business's use of technology from a commercial perspective. You could be working closely with a particular business area, or working on technology issues that affect an entire organisation.
However, here are some key characteristics that just about everyone working in technology in finance shares.
A passion for technology, particularly programming
You may or may not end up spending your working days coding, but anyone coming into this field as a graduate needs to have a solid understanding of it and, just as importantly, plenty of enthusiasm for the use and evolution of technology in general.
Some understanding of business and finance
You don't need to be an expert when you start your career, but you do need to have some interest in this world and be keen to learn more about it. How much you need to learn will depend on your prior experience and your role, but the more you're prepared to pick up, the more opportunities will open up to you.
Practical problem-solving abilities
Working in technology in finance is all about finding practical and cost-efficient ways to address particular needs. That doesn't mean you'll never spend time thinking theoretically about big-picture issues, but most of the work here has a clear business application.
A global perspective
The finance world is a global one, so its organisations have global networks of people and technological infrastructure. That means your work may be affected by things happening on the other side of the planet, that you're likely to work with colleagues from many different countries and located in many different offices, and that you may get the chance to travel yourself.
4 myths about working in technology in finance
Finance is a difficult world to work in
Investment banks and similar organisations set high standards for their employees to ensure they stay at the top of a competitive field. However, you'll find there's a huge emphasis on meeting challenges as a team and ensuring that working environments enable everyone to perform at their best.
You'll be working on an IT helpdesk
Responding to "I deleted my document by mistake"-type queries is often now outsourced and instead technology teams here focus on complex tools and issues that are central to the business. There may well be an element of responding to the needs of bankers and traders in your role, but many people find it very satisfying to see their solutions to complex problems in action.
You'll do more exciting work at a software or internet company
Microsoft or Google don't have a monopoly on cutting-edge innovation. Because the quality of a finance organisation's technology now has such a significant commercial impact on the success of its business, there's stiff competition to be the best, meaning that in finance there's a constant thirst for technological innovation and the pace of progress is rapid.
You'll only be able to work in finance in the future
Because some of the most exciting developments in the technology world are taking place in finance, you'll find that starting your career here is no bar to a move elsewhere in the industry in the future. In fact, many external software companies and other technological organisations are now focusing on developing products for the finance world.
What might technology teams in finance do?
Design a trading system to allow traders to price products in a new asset class effectively.
Technology teams will:
- code the system from scratch
- build in a feature to allow traders to see the risk associated with any particular product
- enable traders to receive market information relevant to that asset class very quickly
- interact with traders to ensure the system meets their needs on an ongoing basis.
- Respond when an investment bank's data centre gets destroyed by a hurricane.
Technology teams will:
- consider what needs to be done first and how to prioritise other tasks
- reroute all processes to backup systems and make sure they're running effectively
- track the progress of all steps taken
- ensure communication between the technology team and other employees and clients affected is working properly.
"We want people who want to use technology to solve the biggest problems in financial services. You get exposed to different parts of the business process and a broad spectrum of business issues. It's a challenging environment in which you're always learning."
Managing Director, BlackRock
"Working in technology at an investment bank, I feel I have a connection with users. At a software organisation, you're focused on the product you're building and it's unusual for you to speak to the people who are using your system. But when you work at an investment bank, your users work with you and you can talk to them. You can see pretty much immediately how something you've produced has transformed the way they work."
Executive Director in Technology, Morgan Stanley