COMMENT: You'll regret leaving banking for a big tech firm

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If you’re a technologist in a bank and you want to move to a large technology firm, it’s becoming increasingly easy to do so.

Today, the big tech firms are actively seeking talent from investment banks in the hope that they can compete in the banking world in the next five to ten years.  Apple, for example, is trying to replicate the projects rolled out within a bank but on a much larger scale as it expands Apple Pay. Microsoft wants to build its own risk management technology platform and has been approaching most of the technologists working in risk at Morgan Stanley.

If you’re a technologist in a bank, these roles might seem appealing. The selling point is usually that you will work on greenfield projects that effect millions of stakeholders across the world. You’ll get to ditch your suit and tie and to take slides at work, and to immerse yourself in tech culture.

If you’re used to working in Canary Wharf, however, this can ultimately become a problem. I’ve spoken to people who said they loved the tech offices the first time they went there, but that by the third visit it started to feel like a “frat house.”

There’s also the issue of the actual technology you’ll be working with. You might think you’ll be working with cutting-edge machine learning projects, but for the most part you won’t be. The best projects are still based out of Silicon Valley and San Francisco and many London developers seem to constantly jump between projects just to keep themselves busy.

Facebook’s cryptocurrency/blockchain currency, Libra, is a case in point. It’s taken the world by storm in recent months but Facebook insiders have been complaining that the San Fran team are getting the most exposure to it. The U.S. guys are working on the payments platform and using Machine Learning to help scale the platform, while London technologists just work on verification - which is pretty boring by comparison.

If you’re a technologist in a bank and you want a change of scene, you might therefore want to look at the buy-side instead. Buy-side funds are hiring technologists. – Volatility creates opportunities and they’re growing their fixed income technology teams to monetize on the downturn. Some are also proactively building their equities platforms in anticipation of stabilizing markets in the next 12 months.

Buy-side firms also pay well. It’s not fashionable to say this, but bonuses on the buy-side are often a lot higher than at technology firms. With many ex-banking technologists staying in technology firms for less than two years after moving there, buy-side jobs also offer greater stability and compatibility if you’re a finance-focused technology professional.

Photo: Getty

Olly Thompson is the Head of Electronic Trading Technology, EMEA, for recruitment firm GQR. He specialises in placing front office technologists into hedge funds and etrading teams within investment banks.

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