Wall Street Programmers

Joe Purcell By Joe Purcell
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Wall Street’s crew of programmers for high-frequency trading (HFT) software are the top of the food chain among C programmers. What exactly does it take to be a Wall Street programmer? Is C going to continue to be the language of choice? Let’s find out.

As one article notes, milliseconds can mean a matter of millions in HFT. And the stakes are high. The article mentions Sergey Aleynikov who was given $1.2 million to leave his $400,000 salary job at Goldman Sachs to work for a HFT firm. He illegally downloaded some of Goldman Sach’s proprietary code and ended up in prison.

Needless to say, Wall Street code is worth billions and latency is a chief concern. As Matt Davey states in the article, “‘The lower the latency, the more C/C++ is important.’”

So, just how big is the Wall Street programming gang? According to a financial career site, JP Morgan employs 19,000, UBS 8,700, and Goldman Sachs 9,5000. That’s over 37,000 programmers employed among just three financial institutions! However, the tides may be turning.

According to the article, many firms are outsourcing their programming to third party companies that can do it better and cheaper. As a result, financial institutions are laying off programmers and the third party companies that pick them up are picking up fewer. It is expected that 5,000-7,000 jobs will not be picked up.

Yet, there are other factors that offset this. Electronic trading is on the rise and as more organizations use these third party companies the more they will have to hire. Not only that, but HFT companies like hedge funds are growing and creating demand for high-level C programmers who can create complex models.

The new dawn of the internet has brought a momentum towards technological drivenness that is only increasing. Jobs for programmers are increasing, but the market is looking for not just good programmers, but good thinkers–people who are able to conceptualize complex models and implement them. As Financial News states, “there is no sign of demand slackening off.”

About Joe Purcell
Joe Purcell is a technology virtuoso, cyberspace frontiersman, and connoisseur of Linux, Mac, and Windows alike.

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