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A sales-trader questions why banks are increasing technologists' pay.

"Technologists in banks have an easy life compared to the people who make the money"

I'm in the wrong job. As a sales-trader in a bank I'm continuously told that my skills are on the way out. No one wants a human to read the markets any more. Everyone wants technologists - for some reason called engineers - who can write code to do the job instead. These engineers like to complain they're not being paid enough. "How come front office people are still paid more than engineers?", is a frequent question. Well, maybe it's because we work a lot harder than you?

I work 12 hours a day. I'm in the office by 6.30am to establish what happened in Asia overnight and to prepare for the day. When markets close at 4.30pm I stay around to talk to clients and review what happened. This is not a nine-to-five job.

I also work fast. In my job, things are done with a sense or urgency. I am not proud of being in a hurry all the time, but it's inherent in working on a trading floor. Markets move quickly.

In the technology team, I see a diametrically opposite approach. Our technologists arrive two hours later than me and they leave at least half an hour earlier. Their days are passed at a leisurely pace with a lot of surfing the internet. They're always, "busy", but there's a lot of busy doing nothing. It's like they have a different concept of time: one in which things are very slow.

The most surprising thing is that the bank seems to support them in this. While we're being made to work faster to justify our existence, the tech team gets to wear hoodies and book tickets to music festivals on the company time. Management treats them like children: at J.P. Morgan they even get to draw on the furniture. 

What's worst, though, is their superiority. If you work in technology, you are cool. If you work in trading, you are not. A lot of these people seem to consider themselves overqualified for the jobs they're doing here. Either that, or they just don't like working because I see little sign of self-discipline or enthusiasm.

So, no - let's not pay them more. Let's pay them less and only reward them for their results. This is how it was in trading for years. If they don't like it, they can try their luck at the Googles and Palantirs that probably won't hire them anyway. And if they do like it, they can work harder and longer so that they deliver. Maybe they'll start turning up 6.30am too? Then they can start talking about equal pay.

Cyril Lebrun is a pseudonym

Photo by LinkedIn Sales Navigator on Unsplash

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AUTHORCyril Lebrun Insider Comment
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  • Bo
    Boost Boost
    3 September 2019

    Well I will be all for lower base salary, if traders are willing to give us their PnL cut

  • Jo
    John
    1 September 2019

    Technologists are important - no question. Key infrastructure, like websites and trading platforms, all need to be programmed and built from scratch. But just because they're important, we should not be compelled to pay them more. Learning how to code, like learning how to wash dishes or drive a bus, is comparatively easier than the skills required for many front-office jobs. There's a reason why there are so many qualified technologists in countries like India. This is a job that can be mastered through pure hard work and rote-learning. On the other hand, a feel for markets, intuition (believe it or not, the best traders still rely on this), qualitative analysis, and an ability to articulate information and ideas in a convincing and effective manner, are skills that are less easily taught or picked-up through reading a textbook or attending engineering school. Cleaners and teachers provide essential services to society. Does that justify paying them front office salaries? The market clearly says no. Technologists are no different....(NB: I am referring to the majority of technology jobs, not the front-office-esque tech people working on AI and trading algos. Front-office technologists are rightfully paid as much, or even more, than traditional front office guys.

  • Un
    Unknown
    30 August 2019

    This is so true. I am sick and tired of tech people.

    I have worked for multiple banks and FS companies and saw this exact same behaviour everywhere.
    Once I asked a FO developer to implement something in a business critical system. He rejected straight away as was outside of the current "sprint". Frankly I do not care about their sprints and jiras when it comes down to bugs in business critical systems.
    Everytime I escalate issues regarding the developers, I am told to let it go...
    In my current company they are supposed to be in the office from 8am to help troubleshoot in case something goes wrong. Reality is, they never arrive before 9:30... Not to mention that they hire dozens of contractors that are in the office whenever they feel like it....
    When bonus time comes, they are the first to complain...

  • Of
    OffTheStreet
    29 August 2019

    Ha. Traders working long hours? Everyone on my desk comes in right before the market opens and is out the door by 3:15 cst and that is at a tier 1 firm.

  • Te
    Ted
    29 August 2019

    I am in a rare position in that I have worked in trading and moved to technology precisely because I realised trading wasn't using my skillset up to its full potential and I believe the trading workforce will scale back overtime in favour of more technologists. Now having worked extensively on both sides, I can also understand part of Cyril's frustration. In trading you can literraly invent work and fictitious projects all day long as the market never sleeps. You can invent patterns and find stories to talk about with clients 24hours a day. Does that translate in additional revenue? I don't think so as trading is no longer a job where supply creates its own demand, it's not like the Wolf of Wall Street anymore. So if that's what Cyril calls "delivering" then yes you are delivering a lot in trading, but it is a lot of nonsense and frankly a waste of someone's time and ultimately the bank's resources. Then Cyril applies that logic to technology: why don't programmers spend their days programming more to pile up on new technology? Because in tech unlike trading less is often more. It requires thinking strategically, finding what sort of technology the firm actually needs and what is superficial. That's a question for the senior management of the bank, not the programmers and often because the senior management is made of former traders they tend to think like Cyril: they pile up on programmers to complete all sorts of unnecessary tech projects and ultimately end up with either too large IT teams or demotivated employees.

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