The worlds of finance and technology have become increasingly interlaced in recent years, and there are few places where this is more clearly the case than at Goldman Sachs.
As one of the first investment banks to recognise the growing importance of technology to the financial services sector, the firm has long prioritised the recruitment and development of technically-minded quantitative graduates from around the world.
Increasingly, these Engineers, as they are known, are playing a critical role at the centre of Goldman’s growth strategy.
“It’s difficult to grasp just how technology-driven the financial markets have become,” says Samantha Liakris, Head of EMEA Engineering Campus Recruitment.
“Today’s graduates have an amazing opportunity to work with a range of transformational technologies that are currently driving the business and the financial markets.”
Goldman’s Engineers find themselves working in one of two areas: the Technology Division, or global strategists (“Strats”).
Either way, they are immediately at the centre of the business, helping to shape the company’s long-term growth strategy and meet the evolving technology needs of a global client base.
And, as the remit of this fast-growing division continues to expand, there is no limit to the opportunities and experiences that graduate Engineers might enjoy.
“Mobility is something we value extremely highly,” says Samantha. “We encourage our employees to gain exposure to different technologies, regions and areas of the market during the course of their career.”
We spoke to two of the firm’s employees – an associate in the Technology Division and a vice president in Strats – about the projects they are involved in, and asked them why they chose to become an Engineer at Goldman Sachs.
Sam – Vice President in Strats
Can you talk a little about your career path and your work as an Engineer?
I studied Mathematics at Oxford as an undergraduate, and then completed a PhD in Applied Mathematics at Imperial.
Since joining Goldman around seven years ago, I’ve been working within the Synthetic Financing team in London. This is part of Equity Strats, which in turn falls under the firm’s Securities Division.
Our core role is to develop systematic trading strategies. In simple terms, this involves developing automated trading strategies that are based on algorithms as opposed to traditional manual trading approaches.
These strategies allow us to develop different products, which are used to generate profits from securities trading. In my team’s case, these products are aligned with a particular equities market, such as the FTSE or S&P 500.
Once developed, our team’s products are then sold directly to Goldman’s customers – an asset manager or hedge fund, for example. A client will often approach us with a specific objective, and we’ll go away and create bespoke strategies and products to support this.
The systematic trading business has been a hugely successful venture at Goldman. On the strategy side, we’ve been able to deliver significant value to the bank’s customers, and to the firm itself.
The Engineers are the ones leading the project and driving its future direction. We’re constantly looking for new ideas and solutions that will add value for our clients. It is an enormously creative process, and I really enjoy being involved in growing major projects from the ground up.
What sort of impact can a recent quantitative graduate expect to have at Goldman Sachs?
Technology is a key long-term focus for Goldman Sachs, and regardless of which part of the Engineering organisation you sit in, there’s no doubt that this is a really exciting place to work.
What makes our Engineering programme different to other graduate schemes is that there is always a clear direction and a clear business case that supports the work you’ll be doing.
From day one, you are trusted to make decisions and to help to solve real business problems. As a programmer or software engineer at Goldman Sachs, you won’t end up experimenting for experimenting’s sake.
For example, you might find yourself spending long periods trying to establish proof of concept for products or ideas that may never see the light of day – that won’t happen here.
There are other banks doing similar work to Goldman in the financial technology space, but there are few places where technology is quite so integral to the future of the business.
The Engineering organisation is constantly expanding, and now comprises around a quarter of our global workforce – this is a clear example of how important it has become to the firm.
How different is the work of Strategy teams to that of the Technology Division?
In the past, students applying to Goldman Sachs would apply directly to either Strats or Technology. Part of the reason for this is that the two roles were quite distinct from one another.
For example, the work of the Strats team has traditionally had a numerical or financial-modelling slant, with an emphasis on risk management or product development.
The Technology Division has typically attracted those with an Engineering or Computer Science degree background.
Nowadays, there is far more crossover in terms of the demands of the two roles and the skills required. While Strats might have traditionally attracted math or finance-focused graduates, the intake is now far more diverse.
The fantastic thing about the Engineering programme is that it allows you to find your own place within the company – and this will depend very much on your specific skills and interests.
It is also increasingly versatile – so Engineers are likely to move between different projects and teams during the course of their career.
You aren’t expected to know where your long-term future lies at the application stage, though you will be expected to have read up on what the Engineering team does and the different ways it supports the business.
Rawan – Associate in Technology
Why did you choose to become an Engineer?
I studied Computer Science at UCL, and quickly came to realise that the career possibilities after graduation are endless, varying across a multitude of industries.
For me, making the move into finance, and specifically Goldman Sachs, ended up being an easy and logical decision.
I completed a summer internship with Goldman Sachs during my penultimate year at university. Over the course of the summer, I got to see how technology was being used across the different functions of a bank, how integral it was to the success of teams and how important collaboration and teamwork was across the firm.
Applying the theoretical skills I’d learnt in university in a creative manner, in a data-driven environment seemed like a fascinating challenge, and one that I was ready to pursue.
What kinds of projects have you been working on since you’ve joined?
After completing my graduate training in New York, I joined the Finance and Risk Engineering Team in London. Since then, I’ve been involved in a variety of projects, collaborating with different Engineering teams and partnering with multiple end users across the business.
Within my team, we currently have three main focus areas. The first is to consolidate the data we produce and consume into the firm’s strategic centralised location, the Data Lake.
This information will ultimately be used to support decision planning across various parts of the business. For example, I’m currently building a web application in React, which exposes the firm’s daily Profit & Loss data to various stakeholders – something that was previously managed and completed in Excel.
Second, we are making sure our end users have a well-defined, efficient workflow through which they can complete their daily functions.
Finally, we are working to provide the right visualisation and analysis tools to allow our users to capture and seamlessly unlock the true value of data and patterns that would otherwise be hidden.
All of the work I’m doing is in line with the firm’s strategic goals around automation, ensuring data completeness, quality and removing unnecessary duplication.
What excites you most about the next few years as an Engineer?
It is an especially interesting time to be in finance as an Engineer. Financial technology is an area that is rapidly evolving, and, as a firm, we are working hard to ensure we stay at the forefront.
To remain competitive, the banks have to have the same appetite for innovation and disruption as the smaller tech firms and start-ups that are out there.
What’s more, we are constantly encouraged to leverage new technologies to introduce positive change and efficiencies in our systems. Being given the trust and responsibility to take ownership of a deliverable right from the start – and to see the project through to fruition – presents an amazing opportunity to develop both technical and soft skills.
It is fascinating watching these different initiatives coming together to create an ideal, potentially self-service, working environment for our users. I am excited to see users daily business functions changing with automation; and, most of all, I am excited to see Technology being a massive enabler for the firm to achieve its objectives.