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This is why I left my coding job in a bank

It's seven months since I left my job as a programmer at one of Europe's top investment banks. Unlike a lot of other people in banking, I left of my own accord. After seven years working at three top banks, I'm taking my development skills elsewhere.

It's banks' loss. I can work across Python, Spring, Java, Jenkins, Sybase and more. I know markets. I understand risk. I've been through the training programs and I understand what bank' need from their developers - but I don't want to work in finance any more.

Banks will tell you they're tech companies. Don't believe them. Technologists are second class citizens in banks - if you work near the trading floor (I did), the traders are in charge. The politics in the technology team are immense and the career progression is limited. You won't be working on innovative new technologies. Most banks are cutting costs and this means you'll be focusing on maintaining the infrastructure. Because of this, I know people who only found out how much they didn't know about tech after they left banking. Banks need people who can write the code they're told to write. They don't need innovative problem solvers.

And then you have the insecurity, especially if you're based in London. Most banks are trying to save money. Two of the banks I worked for have started moving jobs out of London to "low cost locations". These are usually places you wouldn't want to live - like Poland, or Belfast. You sit there, and you can see the jobs around you disappearing. All the time, you're working under conditions of high stress with limited flexibility - midnight calls from colleagues on the other side of the world, for example.

There are some good jobs for developers in banking. If you can do it, you want to get into a strats team of the kind pioneered by Goldman Sachs. Here, you'll be part quant, part developer. You'll usually get paid more and be seen more as a source of revenue than a source of cost. These jobs are hard to get though - I interviewed for a few, but I wasn't successful.

So, now I've taken my coding knowledge elsewhere. I work for a consulting firm which has some finance clients. The work here is more interesting: we're trying to add value rather than just execute. The hours are better and there's more flexibility - no more midnight calls.

Most importantly though, I'm only now realising what I missed during my time in banking. I suddenly have time for my personal projects. I get to spend time on Github and to use open source tools. I'm a lot more aware of the current trends in the technology and fintech space. There's a lot less bureaucracy and I feel like I'm growing again. The money's not bad either.  The only real question is why I stayed in big banks for so long.

Richard Ling is a pseudonym 

Contact: sbutcher@efinancialcareers.com

 

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AUTHORRichard Ling Insider Comment
  • nl
    nlhnt
    5 August 2022

    What's your beef with Poland or Belfast? What kind of comparison is this, Belfast is a city, Poland is a 40 milion country...?

  • Ma
    Matt
    2 July 2021

    You really hit the nail on the head with this article, I worked as a developer at three big major US banks and they are all very similar. The tech is old and now they are scrambling to catch up to the fin-tech companies that are grabbing some of their business. They promote innovation, but you have no time to innovate because you are putting out fires from their legacy systems or you just lose ambition from lack of support, overnighters that last forever, etc..

    You also have developers who have been working on VB since the 90's and they don't want to change and update their skills to new technologies. Even devs who want to update can't use their newly acquired skills for the next 3 years when the system switches over, if it ever does. To the banks credit, they are trying to update, but these systems are huge spaghetti systems, and when they finally update in the next few years, they will still be behind and playing catch-up. Now that I left big banking, I will never look back and if another recruiter contacts me from one, I will not even bother to open the email - I'm done with big bank development!

  • Bo
    Bob
    23 February 2021

    Strat is where it’s at

  • Ja
    James Taylor
    20 February 2021

    Why not live in Poland or Belfast? The reality laid bare by COVID is you can live wherever works for you as a software developer. Poland will work for some people, and they might be happier with lower salaries than someone who wants to live in London. Ultimately those people are going to do your job for less money and have a higher quality of life too.

    Also, your impression of GS is different from mine. A lot of non-quant dev people in IT there were rebranded as strats and I know from having interviewed some of them that total compensation can be very low with respect to market rates.

  • Mi
    Minnow
    19 February 2021

    "low cost locations". I believe the correct term is "high value" :))

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