The growing complexity and shear volume of trades - especially of derivatives, debt and exotic instruments - has given clearing and settlement staffs as much respect and attention as the frontline trading desks.
"People in the financial markets only see the tip of the iceberg," says Anthony Portannese, managing director of Human Resources for the Depository Trust & Clearing Corp. "There is a whole infrastructure, a whole industry beneath the trading." And, it would appear, a window of opportunity for the next wave of business technologists.
Portannese sees a major transition going on in the financial industry's accounting pool. "A lot of the talent in these positions is aging, maturing," he says. "We're watching a massive demographic shift. We need a completely new talent pool. It's just indicative of the industry as a whole."
The biggest player in the clearings and settlements area, the DTCC is a neutral party that transfers the ownership of traded assets from buyer to seller. Its financial services comprise the largest post-trade infrastructure in the world, with all other clearing services passing through its systems. The shear dollar value that passes through the DTCC is mind boggling: this consortium of banks, broker/dealers and entities such as the NASD and New York Stock Exchange settled deals worth $1.45 quadrillion in 2005 alone.
To meet its goal of being the provider of choice for investment servicing solutions worldwide, the DTCC looks for people with the ability to understand the financial industry from a business systems perspective. In Portannese's words these are "people who can understand the interaction between technology and operations enough to translate operational needs into solutions for rapidly evolving systems."
With two to three years of experience, a business systems analyst can start at $90,000, Portannese says. With seven to 10 years experience, an analyst could earn between $100,000 to $150,000 - without a graduate degree. Workers who can anticipate system needs are most prized. "A lot the time products come out faster than the infrastructure to settle them," Portannese observes.
The DTCC's work to advise and train securities firms on the financial infrastructure presents another entry point. People good at servicing or training, or with knowledge of asset servicing - such as how corporate actions like mergers, redemptions or interest payments coming due - will impact systems can earn $50,000 to $60,000.
Moreover, starting out with the DTCC can be a credential. Other major players in the clearing and settlement industry - such as Pershing, Bear Stearns, HSBC and Citigroup - list understanding its settlement systems as a plus on the career pages of their Web sites. At least one of them, Pershing, says it is hiring also. "Business systems analysts are much in demand," according to a spokesperson.
While applicants don't need licenses for these positions, good project management skills are essential. The ability to perform functional analysis of the design of user requirements is another plus. Many applicants - though not necessarily programmers - come from IT or product development departments. More desirable are people who understand software implementation lifecycles and possess strong analytical skills. "You don't have to program, just understand how programs are coded," says Portannese.