Steady Pay for Wall Street's IT Professionals

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The job market for IT professionals is strong on Wall Street, recruiters say. Overall, however, pay is holding at generous - but constant - levels.

Scott Gerson, president of the New York recruiting firm Focus Capital, says the result is a steady stream of people looking to move - and a number of firms standing ready to hire them.

"The surprise is that the demand and the supply are both high, and you don't see that very often," he says. "It's a perfect storm. The fact that there are so many jobs brings out the job seekers, because they know there is a good market." Focus Capital's company policy is not to raid firms, but to place job seekers who approach it. Because they see the market is good, Gerson says, candidates who may have found themselves stuck with a poor manager or inadequate bonuses are now ready to do something about their situation.

However, pay has remained fairly constant. Investment banks with their bottom-line orientation are not going to get carried away to the excesses of the dot-com era just because they face some competition for good people. Most of Gerson's placements are in the $75,000 to $500,000 range for base salaries plus bonuses.

"Quality companies have very good bonuses, and are willing to pay for performance, but you don't see a lot of people being bought at outrageous prices," Gerson says. The professionals in the most demand offer a combination of the right technology experience, an understanding of the business and a knack for good communication.

On the trading desks, .NET and C# are becoming the most popular skills. "If you used Visual Basic and Excel, you tend to move to .NET and C# as migration to the next step in the Microsoft evolution," Gerson notes. On the other end of the technology spectrum, there continues to be a limited demand for programmers with COBOL experience. "It's almost a cottage industry, like the shoemaker or blacksmith who only know certain skills. There will always be a demand for the few people who still work with COBOL," Gerson believes.

Netin Gupta at RadixThink, a recruitment process outsourcer in Centreville, Va., sees a similar landscape. He says his clients want a combination of business and technology skills, such as an understanding of fixed income and Java, or knowledge of mortgage-backed securities and C#.

"In addition, most of our clients are looking for people who can communicate well, who can really put their point across briefly and directing," he says. "A lot of times, they have to communicate with clients and interact with traders on the floor, so communication skills are very important."

Gupta sees base salaries of $80,000 to $100,000 for people with 4-5 years experience, and above $150,000 base for people with 10 or more years. The skills he sees most in demand are Java, .NET and C#.