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Question for developers working in finance industry

I want to focus on solving problems in the finance industry.  Not being a pure tech head but more of a business analyst that can also write software to solve the problem.

The software jobs I've had are basically tech head jobs writing general applications.  I don't think it is a good idea to bounce from company to company writing anything and everything.  I want to stay focused on one area.  I've always moved up in pay but now I want to get out of being just a tech head.

Most of the companies will tell you they have a career path but after working there for a few months, you realize they don't.  Is there a way to guard against this before getting hired?

My education is a BA in Business Administration with additional courses into upper level pure mathematics and CS.  I know that isn't as good as a finance degree.  I also don't know anyone in the finance industry.  I'm on the west coast as well.  My plans are to get a development job with a finance oriented company.  Learn as much as I can about what they do and start improving their process.  My end goal is a quant analyst developer.  If they offer support to earn CFA or take finance course, I'll do it.  Does this seem like a reasonable plan?

I do have a mISV on the side but not sure how that will look to potential employers.  Conflict of interest is important since I don't want to give up the mISV.

I was thinking of applying to Washington Mutual for a position in the loan department that had something similar to a quant analysis developer.  However, a career path and being rewarded for your hard work is important to me.  I spoke with a co worker that knows a database admin at Wa Mu.  He told me they ring you out completely.  This poor guy never sees his family during the week and has to work weekends.  I also read this:  Is that indicative of banks in general?  What are some suggestions on the type of company I should look for?
Thursday, May 31, 2007
The rest of the industry _must_ be different, but in my case I work on maintaining some _very_ old and badly written code.  The company cares about stability (and milking a cash cow) more than anything so my hands are tied and I can't really fix or improve anything.  Also, we can't change much because _our_ customers (we're sort of a service provider to the financial industry) care about stability even more than us, so it's impossible to upgrade them.

My advice is stay away from the top 10 largest financial companies out there and their service providers.  They're not looking for innovative solutions as much as you'd think.
anon for this one
Thursday, May 31, 2007
I have worked in many industries, including a bank, then three years for a vendor of a loan software package.  Of all industries (transportation, manufacturing, distribution, financial) I can say the most BORING was the financial.  Very high tech software, but very boring industry.

Different strokes for different folks, I guess.
Thursday, May 31, 2007
Most development within a big bank will be boring maintenance. Remember that a banks core business is not software development, it is financial products, so as a developer you will never be the hotshot. You don't bring in any dough, it's the other employees using your applications that does. Also, most developers want to move up so they care more about office politics than improving their development skills.

However, every big bank has a team which consists of really good developers making state of the art systems. Usually they were bought up and are allowed to exist more or less as a freestanding unit. I work for one of these teams. We belong to one of the bigger banks and beside the name have no contact with them, at least not on my level as a developer. Find one of these places and you will be doing interesting work with smart people, mostly foreigners and get paid well and have excellent benefits.
pjsson Send private email
Thursday, May 31, 2007
wow! posts like this help me remember how fortunate I am.

My job isn't perfect by any means, but things have been "pretty good" lately.

A few things:
- Find a particular business line that interests you, learn it, and try to stay there. I've been in Equities for the past few years.  I do have an interest in the Private Bank/Wealth management side of things as Financial Planning has always been of interest.
- Don't take pure tech jobs. Look for jobs where more "analysis" is expected.
- Regarding what you read about WAMU, there's stuff like that about every company. Find out the details about the group you are working for.
- While interview, find out the hours that are expected. In a good week, I have a 13 hour day with commute and 10 of those are at work. But, I knew this going into it! At times, I feel overworked; especially as compared to some of my colleagues. But, it could be worse.
- Make very clear your salary expectations while interviewing. Don't back down and listen to "potential". There is nothing worse then feeling underpaid.
Patrick From An IBank Send private email
Thursday, May 31, 2007
1) If you are in securities (trading, bond structuring, etc.) the hours are horrendous, and the pressure is high.  You can't make a mistake, it could cost millions.  Normally the business guys will catch a problem before it affects a deal, but you take serious heat if you let it happen.  More than once, and you are gone.  If you are in regular "banking", i.e. savings accounts, mortgages, you get bankers hours.  Low pressure, low pay, nice 9-5, lots of processes, typical IT dept ineptness.  Totally different worlds.

2) Like any large company, there are good projects and bad projects.  I am lucky enough to find myself on a good project.  I had to suffer through some nasty stuff for a while though.  So it's possible to get where you want, but you'll probably have to start on support, maintaining excel spreadsheets or some such, yuck!  It takes a long time to get up with the lingo in securities.  I find the math is not too hard, but the termonology around the math takes a while to click, particularly when a trader yells a 2 sentence complaint at you and expects you to fix it in 10 minutes or he loses his deal.

3) The bank treats us IT guys as their biggest expense.  There will always be cost cutting, reorgs, whatever.  If you really want to get into the good stuff, be good enough to make it to the analyst/trading/deal making business side of the house.  That's where the bank makes it's money, and where the big money and bonuses go.  Those people have no lives, but can afford to retire after 5-10 years.

My 2 cents, based on my experience
Thursday, May 31, 2007
Hey [pjsson],

What about mISV work that caters to the Trading/Deal Making side of the financial industry? Is there a market for this?

If there is, then I would imagine it would be the best of both worlds. You could command some serious cash for your product and have the flexibility to take some time off here and there.
Thursday, May 31, 2007
Most big bank use applications developed internally or by some other big financial company, like Bloomberg. Most developers at an bank will argue that if an application is simple enough to be developed by an mISV it should be developed by internally for better control, higher quality, cost or whatever.
pjsson Send private email
Thursday, May 31, 2007
if we look at the definition of mISV - one person shop. I really doubt you could produce a trading system that would result in some serious coin from IBanks.

regarding working at a software company that caters to the financial industry... i have worked for 2 Software and Services companies. By "Services", i mean outsourcing - they had people internally that used the software. The 1st was a smaller startup that was about 12 people when i was there. About 8 years later it did grow to 45 people, but went through a lot of pain to get there. I do think i would have enjoyed the last year or so before it sold out to Sungard.

The second was a medium-sized company that was about 500 people. I have never been so disappointed! I thought that they would be over the "startup" hump. But, the CEO and COO were control freaks. No real business startegy besides making money. And they could have cared less about quality software.

I will say that Bankstrong on this site has impressed me with what he is trying to do. As I have stated, "If i could get the wife to move to NJ".

Personally, i'm back with a Big IBank until i find a financial software company that I can truly trust. If you find one, then let me know.
Patrick From An IBank Send private email
Thursday, May 31, 2007
All the currency traders I know of develope their own in house software....

There is nothing new under the sun.

Thursday, May 31, 2007
The closest thing to a quant prep academic program in Seattle is here.
What you'd need to study is also called "financial mathematics" or "financial engineering".

I think you'd have trouble working your way up to being a quant analyst developer without the academic background.
Friday, June 01, 2007
if you can get a job on a trading desk doing development then go for it. working in an IT department anywhere is essentially the same
Tom Vu
Thursday, June 07, 2007

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