Forget Equities and FX, Sharpen Your Programming Skills for a Job on Wall Street

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If you’re looking for a job in finance, highlight your programming skills and steer clear of equities, foreign exchange and consultancy. Those sectors are in decline, according to job postings on eFinancialCareers, while jobs in wealth management, compliance and quantitative analytics are up year-over-year.

For the year ended September 1, postings for jobs in wealth management rose 55%, while those in compliance and quantitative analytics rose by 32% and 30%, respectively. The number of postings for jobs in equities dropped by 50%, while those in foreign exchange and consultancy dropped by 45% and 39%, respectively.

Most in demand

The skill most in demand by recruiters: programming languages and databases. These include expertise in C, Java, C++, C#, Python and Javascript, among others. The adoption of high-speed, algorithm-based trading has firms in desperate need of candidates with a strong background in C, Java and SQL programming, among other software specialties.

“It’s a fair statement to say that IT has grown dramatically [in recent years],” said Steve Saah, director of permanent placement services at executive search firm Robert Half. “There are too many positions and not enough people with the skill-set.” The eFinancialCareers site shows that recruiters searched most often for skills in programming languages between June and August. Searches for skills in fixed income and risk ranked No. 2 and No. 3.

Quantitative analytics jobs postings currently comprise the second largest group of jobs on eFinancialCareers, behind only IT, according to a recent analysis.

“We’re seeing above-average hiring for analysts on both the buy and sell side ,” said Adam Zoia, CEO Globcap, a New York-based executive search firm that partners with hedge funds, investment banks and private equity firms. With less money to play with, banks are looking to fine-tune what is successful, and need strong analysts to help them become more efficient, Zoia said.

Private wealth management is another area that is taking off as investors have become more risk-averse and are looking for greater stability, said Ross Baltic, managing partner at Mercury Partners, a New York-based executive search firm specializing in the financial services industry.

Managing risk

Banks, hedge funds and other financial institutions are also scouring job boards for talented compliance and risk management professionals who can help steer them through an evolving and highly complex regulatory environment.

Recent blunders at firms like J.P. Morgan and UBS have reinforced the need for quality risk management personnel, even on the buy side, said Baltic.

“Whether it’s remaining compliant with new regulations or helping investment managers better structure their trades, there is an evolving need for experienced risk management professionals,” Baltic said. While large banks have cut tens of thousands of positions this year alone, compliance hiring is up 3% since 2010, according to Reuters, citing the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Understanding of evolving legal landscape

Individuals with an audit or risk management background in the financial services industry who have a unique understanding of the evolving legal landscape are best suited for these roles, said Saah. “Firms need someone with experience,” he added.

New regulations, the fallout Euro crisis and less aggressive investment strategies have forced large firms to cut staff in several different areas. Equities, money markets and consultancy sectors have been hit the hardest.

“There is a misconception that just because the stock market is going up, banks are making money in their equities businesses,” Baltic said. Firms are using less capital to make money, and that’s dramatically affecting the equities sector, said Baltic, who doesn’t expect the business to rebound any time soon.

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