Hey, IT: Should You Be Learning F#?

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Any clued in tech professional will no doubt be aware of Microsoft's programming language F#, which has begun to gain a little traction in the financial sector. But is it likely to take off enough to become a must-have skill-set in Wall Street's IT departments?

Certainly the PR machine at Microsoft would have you believe so, with one anonymous "large European financial services organization" supposedly using the language to speed up development, cut costs and improve the quality of its mathematical models used to manage derivatives trading and analyse investment portfolios.

An intricate description of F# can be found here. But in a nutshell, it's a functional language deployed in a .Net environment and can be used for (among other things) data-oriented programming and algorithmic development.

The upside is that professional developers with an understanding of languages like C++ and C# shouldn't find it too much of a hardship to get to get a grip on. But, according to recruiters, it's a skill that appears on only a very small minority of financial IT professionals' resumes.

One bank to embrace F# is Credit Suisse, whose global modelling and analytics team used it for a trader tools project last year. Towards the tail end of 2009, they were also recruiting for professionals with experience of (among other programming languages) F#.

Unfortunately, they're still in the minority of firms to be doing so.

"For every 100 development roles we recruit for, there's never more than one or two that request F# as a skill-set, and this is usually secondary to other programming languages," says Andrew Keene, managing director of IT at finance recruiters Thomson Keene Associates in London. "As with any emerging technology, as soon as a number of firms start piloting it, it soon begins to appear on CVs and, if successful, will become an in demand skill-set."

"Very good developers will have a grasp of F#," adds Paul Elworthy, director, IT banking and finance at UK-based recruiter Hudson. "But because most financial services primarily work in C++, C# and Java, it has yet to become a widespread requirement."

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