If you have ambitions to remain in a trading role for any significant period time, it kind of goes without saying that you need to understand technology. Right now, some of the best traders understand how to code. In the future, technology will be absolutely central to trading jobs, but then trading jobs might not be in the large banks at all.
At least this is the view of Michael Spencer, founder and CEO of ICAP, the interdealer broker reinventing itself as an electronic and post trade services business and moving away from voice broking.
Spencer is one of many senior finance figures writing in Financial News on how the industry will develop over the next 20 years. Large banks, he believes, will struggle to keep hold of staff as regulatory and capital requirements make it difficult for them to compete as market-makers with cheaper non-bank competitors who can provide support throughout the trade lifecycle.
Traders are getting “younger, smarter and savvier”, he says. Banks and non-banks will compete for talent from large tech companies like Google and Microsoft and these stars of tomorrow will “expect more freedom in how they work, where they work and what they wear to work. It will be the firms that embrace this that win”.
But if technologists are likely to be hot property on the trading floor, Spencer believes that there will be fewer of these working within large financial institutions anyway. Banks will instead turn to cloud-based solutions to replace the clunky legacy infrastructure that holds back innovation.
“Financial institutions move away from time-consuming, in-house builds and outsource these services,” he believes. So, there you have it – work for a HFT, or non-bank player and develop the sort of skills that allow you to create IT systems that you can sell into large banks – simple, right?
The antithesis of this viewpoint, however, has come from James Runde, the vice chairman of investment banking at Morgan Stanley who has worked at the bank for over 32 years.
Writing in the Harvard Business Review (picked up by Business Insider), Runde says the secret to success is being able to read and empathise with people. Forget the idea of psychopaths in investment banking, emotional intelligence (EQ) is not only the secret to developing long-term relationships with clients, it’s also essential for a career in investment banking.
"Without EQ, it's likely that you will be your firm's 'best-kept secret' — not recognized, not appreciated, not promoted and, often, not properly compensated," he said. "Developing EQ is just as pertinent for the recent graduate who is starting out, as it is for the seasoned veteran."
Success isn’t just about technical skill, to be successful you need to be self-aware, flexible and open to new things, he says.
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