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IT and technology

Financial software development: graduate area of work

Financial software development requires skilled developers and programmers. It's a great option for smart graduate computer scientists who want to work in financial technology, but don’t necessarily want to work for a bank.
If you aspire to work in financial software development you need to be very smart and enjoy solving technically difficult problems.

Financial organisations place significant demands on their IT systems. Traders, asset managers and analysts all rely on technology and software applications to do their jobs and these systems must help finance workers analyse huge amounts of data rapidly and make quick decisions, as well as support millions of trading activities every day.

All of the large financial institutions (eg investment banks) have their own software development teams. However, as financial IT systems grow and become more complex, these organisations have increasingly started to outsource their development activities to specialist software development companies such as Scott Logic.

The scope of work taken on by these specialist software development companies includes:

  • application design and development (greenfield)
  • application enhancement and re-engineering (legacy)
  • enterprise integration
  • technology and architecture consultancy.

Financial software development companies are often based outside the major financial hubs, such as the City of London, and can offer their clients specialist skills and the services of talented developers – commodities that can be in short supply in the capital. The expansion of financial software development outside of the main financial hubs mean that more opportunities now exist for graduates who want to work in this field but don’t want to work in London.

‘Nearshoring’ development activities in the UK has definite advantages over offshore outsourcing to places such as China or India, particularly for complex, integrated development projects or support during trading hours. This kind of work can require relatively high levels of communication with the client, which is much easier if the developers are in the UK.

While financial software organisations are often used as extensions to the internal teams of the big institutions, they can offer entire system solutions to smaller organisations such as stockbrokers.

What you should know about graduate careers in financial software development

This area of IT is inextricably linked with finance so you can expect to meet the challenges of working with complex mathematical models, large data sets, distributed systems, highly parallel processing, high speed systems and security considerations, as well as develop interactive graphical user interfaces (GUIs) that help finance workers visualise huge data sets and price complex trades in seconds. Systems constantly evolve as new financial products are introduced.

It’s important that students are well read up on and have a sound understanding of key technology used in business. Although the City favours certain technologies, the boundaries are always being pushed and financial software companies need to react quickly and use new technology to solve problems presented by clients. It’s a very fast-paced business.

If you aspire to work in financial software development you need to be very smart and enjoy solving technically difficult problems. Developers tend to work on both long-term and short-term projects. Large back-end systems can take years to perfect, while smaller projects can be completed in a matter of days or weeks. The timescales of the finance world are invariably tight and the requirements can change rapidly, which requires great flexibility.

How IT graduates get in and get on in financial software development

Graduates working in this area of IT typically come from mathematical, computing, engineering or scientific degree backgrounds. Specific IT skills such as object-oriented (OO) languages (eg Java, C++, C#), relational database management systems (RDBMS), web technologies (eg JSP, AJAX, ASP.NET, Javascript) and middleware (eg CORBA, TIBCO), will give you an advantage when applying for software jobs.

Employers also consider good A levels (including one in maths) to be an indicator of a candidate’s calibre. Academic ability and technical skills need to be coupled with flexibility, commitment and a thorough approach to work.

Graduate developers receive training and learn on the job assisted by more senior colleagues. There are no limits to how far you can progress in either technical or managerial roles and there are plenty of opportunities for rapid career development.

Choose this IT career area if…

  • You will enjoy the challenge of working with intelligent yet demanding clients.
  • You want to work with very smart and like-minded individuals.
  • You like a technical challenge and want to use current technologies.
  • You want to work in financial technology, but don’t want to move to the City. 

About the author

Gary Scott is the managing director of Scott Logic Ltd and formally the executive director and head of fixed income analytics at the investment bank Lehman Brothers. He has a BSc in information systems engineering from Durham and an MSc in parallel computing from Edinburgh.

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