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Wall Street Wants These Tech Skills

Financial services firms are recruiting more IT professionals this summer than a year ago, and they are looking for strong programming, database and operating system skills to keep their real-time banking and trading systems up and running.

Study: Financial enterprises ready to invest in IT

"Technology is extremely important on Wall Street, where they have vast quantities of data that needs real-time analysis," says Constance Melrose, managing director of eFinancialCareers, an online listing of available jobs in the banking, trading and money management fields. "We have a lot of clients who are looking for technologists who can handle the speed, quantity and precision of that information."

Techies interested in these posts will have a leg-up on the competition if they have experience in one key business area: risk management, a capability that was sorely lacking on Wall Street prior to the recession.

Melrose said Wall Street firms are seeking techies who have experience using IT systems to evaluate portfolio risk, trading risk and credit risk. Techies who have identified and analyzed computer systems and security risks are in demand, too.

"Risk management is about identifying and assessing risks and modeling what could be the impact on those risks under changing conditions," Melrose says. "These risk management skills are getting more important in light of financial reform and compliance and reporting requirements."

The number of IT jobs posted by financial services firms was up 24% in July 2010 when compared to July 2009. This was the fourth month in a row that tech jobs were up year-over-year, according to eFinancialCareers.

"Overall recruitment activity is up on Wall Street across the board, and that is sweeping up the tech industry, too," Melrose says. "We think it's a solid trend."

Most of these IT jobs are located in cities with a concentration of financial services firms, including New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago and San Francisco.

Topping the list of the top 10 technology skills in demand for Wall Street firms are programming expertise in the C, C++ and C# languages. Other programming skills that are needed include Java, J2EE and Perl.

"When it comes to Wall Street, the C languages are very important because they allow speed of execution, support language quantities of data and enable you do to a lot of simulation and modeling," Melrose says. "They have the capability to deal with big data strings."

Financial services firms want database skills, too, with knowledge of database administration, SQL and Oracle all making the top 10 list.

Rounding out the list of technology skills in demand on Wall Street are knowledge of operating systems-particularly Unix and Linux-and project management skills.

Melrose said Wall Street firms prefer to hire techies with experience in the financial services field, rather than those who have IT certifications. But, she says, it's not impossible to switch industries.

"Now is a good time to try to move into financial services on the tech side," she says. "One entry point would be on the database side. Financial firms need people who have really good experience administering databases. People with good experience in security are needed, too. Those are the skills that are transferrable."

Melrose advises techies interested in the financial sector to pursue business courses in such areas as financial engineering and risk management. "What skills do you have in identifying a risk and assessing it?" she asks. "Assessing the probability of risk in one scenario can probably be applied to another scenario."

Read more about software in Network World's Software section.

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