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Standard Chartered MD loves the coding language of "outsiders"

The functional programming language Haskell has a small but very vocal support base in finance. It ranks 31st on the TIOBE index and is the 18th highest paying language on the Stack Overflow survey, which says Haskell developers earn an average salary of $85.7k. However, while Haskell may be popular with a few big names like Jane Street's functional language designer Richard Eisenberg, jobs using the language are sparse. Of the 4000+ technology jobs on eFinancialCareers, just 14 even mention Haskell (many of which do so in passing).

The exception is Standard Chartered. Jose Pedro Magalhaes, global head of the core strats, modelling and analytics group at the bank, lauds the language and leads its implementation there. 

“The strong static type system in every expression” is Haskell's key benefit, says Magalhaes.  This, "gives it more structure than many other programming languages.” When you run a program in Haskell, variables are defined at compile time. He says this can make production code much more reliant and efficient.

In an industry where speed of code is paramount, Magalhaes concedes that using Haskell "comes at a certain expense in speed when compiling, [but] not running." However, he says, "you may have to wait a bit more as a developer, but once it’s compiled the types are thrown away anyway."

Haskell is a high level programming language. It's far away from the machine itself, with a less complicated syntax than many other languages. This enables programmers to implement complex ideas more effectively. The code itself is also easy to read. Magalhaes says that, at Standard Chartered, "when we reply to questions from non-technical users, we sometimes copy over the code when we think it's pretty easy to explain."

Magalhaes isolates C as a great low level programming language to accompany Haskell: "If you master those two, you likely won’t have much trouble with most other languages, as they have comparatively similar features."

Haskell is far more popular in academia than finance for these reasons. Another language loved by academics is Scala, though finance has taken to the latter far more than Haskell, which Magalhaes notes is due to its "operability with Java." However, he says that, in finance, we "don’t see many of the advanced type features of Scala being used" compared to Haskell. "You can implement those features, but they aren’t as clean or idiomatic," he says. "Just because you can, doesn’t mean it's appropriate or easy to use."

Programming languages tend to carve out their own tight-knit cliques, but Magalhaes believes Haskell's is unique. "We are all outsiders," he says, "the fact that we code in Haskell brings us together" and "creates a sense of community."

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AUTHORAlex McMurray Editor

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