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Is Wall Street IT Losing Its Luster?

Technology execs are jumping to other industries, including Silicon Valley start-ups, consulting firms and technology providers.

Fortunately, the type of work that is done on Wall Street can often be applied to other verticals, Adler continues. For instance, expertise with technology that powers low-latency trading is in demand. "The ability to bring that knowledge to other industries is critical," he says.

Other useful skills include experience with messaging and working in an ultra-high-volume environment that consumes enormous amounts of data. "All companies want to get the most out of their computing environment, and we know how to do that on Wall Street," Adler says. Experience with complex event processing, advanced data visualization and pricing models for derivative systems all is applicable and desirable in other industries, including telecom, pharmaceuticals, high tech and other sectors.

"[Wall Street tech gurus] have solved computing problems on a massive scale," while dealing with the stress of Wall Street, Adler says. If they can do that, "They can also deal with the stresses of a start-up. They can take what comes with ramping up a new business and are not afraid of a new challenge," he asserts.

Leaving one industry for another certainly can be a leap of faith, especially for someone who is well established in financial services. However, the risk of joining a start-up might not necessarily be any greater than the risk associated with working at an established firm. "Wall Street has been consolidating, so nobody's job is safe any more," Adler says.

Sumant Gupta, who works for three-year-old firm iTB Securities, agrees. He left Barclays Capital as director of U.S. interest rate options trading last year to join iTB, a bond trading solution.

"When you work for a start-up, you get to do a whole host of things," Gupta says. "You can be doing the same thing for 15 to 20 years on Wall Street. Yes, it's exciting and pays well, but this allows you to do many different things. You get to be involved in everything, from product design to figuring out how to measure progress to who your strategic partners will be -- all the aspects of being an entrepreneur.

"Very few people get to do that," he adds.

SunGard's Adler notes that many techies on the Street would love this opportunity. "Often, these days on Wall Street, people feel stuck in a career that is not going to move forward. There are no new mountains to climb," he says.

"It used to be that everyone would flee after bonuses. That's not happening anymore," Adler continues. "Most firms have hiring freezes, reduced compensation and there's no place to go. They are feeling trapped. The only way out is to switch industries."

Whether the exodus of IT talent from Wall Street is a short-term trend or a long-term problem remains to be seen, but hiring managers at top firms regularly comment that skilled talent is always hard to find. If the top technologists are now leaving Wall Street for Silicon Valley or other companies, the industry may need to find other ways to attract talent.

"I'm not talking about your average coder -- I'm talking about the cream of the crop; the very senior people [are leaving for other industries]," Adler says. "This could have a major impact on Wall Street. There will be a void of technical talent and domain knowledge at many of these companies if people with 15-plus years of experience leave."

It is not as if Wall Street has suddenly devolved into a barren wasteland of dead-end technology jobs, however. "Wall Street was the place to be for the last 10 years, and it's still a good place to be, but certainly not the only place," Breakthrough Technology's Shapiro notes.

Adds iTB's Gupta: "Wall Street is trying to make organizations less top heavy. People are accustomed to making large paychecks and it's not happening anymore." In his eyes, Gupta says, "It's better to be the one disrupting than the one disrupted."

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User Rank: Apprentice
4/1/2012 | 7:19:04 AM
re: Is Wall Street IT Losing Its Luster?
I have real mixed feelings about "Wall Street IT". -áWe hear so much about the huge bonuses some on Wall St got. -áBut the bonus money has long gone mainly to the bosses and a handpicked few. -áYears ago at Bankers Trust, in the programming group I was in nearly all the bonus money went to the managers and a couple of their closest friends. -áAnd managers have long since taken advantage of worker's status as 'exempt' to avoid paying overtime while forcing very long work hours.

Lately I've noticed that most IT hiring is extremely specialized. -áNo one cares about good overall experience where a new hire would need a bit of training. -áThey only want someone with the exact skills specified. -áAnd no one older then 50 (except for senior bosses) and no one unemployed. -áFor some strange reason, many such jobs go unfilled for a long time despite a lot of good people applying for them.

In Silicon Valley, there tends to me some relationship between performance and pay. -áNot in Wall St. -áIn Wall St, it is only about who you know.
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