Investment banking is a highly dynamic environment, which is sensitive to delivery and turnaround times for both information and data processing. Given this, I.T. plays a major part in all areas of investment banking, including HR, security, research and trading.
One of the key advantages any business in the investment banking industry can have is speed, whether that be getting research to clients or getting an order into the market quicker than a competitor. This is where I.T. can provide a competitive advantage for an investment bank, such as Nomura.
One of the visible effects of the introduction of I.T. into investment banking is the move from traders making their trades at physical stock exchanges, person-to-person (open outcry), in what would be seen by outsiders as a somewhat chaotic environment, to traders being able to make trades directly and instantly from their computer anywhere in the world.
The investment banking sector would be able to function without I.T. However, it would be dramatically different from the investment banking sector that exists today. There would be limited international links and some business practices and trading locations would not exist.
I.T. has become a cornerstone of the modern investment banking sector and banking practices. It provides a way of delivering data to traders, and automated trading systems from exchanges (a method of allowing complex calculations to be performed which enrich the underlying data) provide consolidated views of data at a glance. I.T. also provides all the systems required for trading itself, as well as peripheral systems that may be found in other industries, such as access control, HR, payroll and internal communications (i.e. phone, email and instant messaging).
Each investment bank will have a different organisational structure, but, in most investment banks, I.T. roles are varied and can cover anything from business continuity planning, system and storage administration, and network and firewall management to market data, security and messaging, as well as more development-focused roles, which involve creating tools and software for other I.T. and business areas, or directly for the traders.
There is no standard set of tasks that an employee would be expected to carry out in an I.T. role within an investment bank, such as Nomura. Indeed, responsibilities will vary from team-to-team and from project-to-project.
In an engineering role, you may be expected to analyse requirements, research the requirements and possible implementation methods, and then provide a recommendation before starting to develop the tool or solution. This may involve working with colleagues in other teams or regions and may involve software development or planning new architecture for the platform or system that you are responsible for.
In a support based role, you would be expected to deal with the users of a particular system, who could be other I.T. staff, trading support staff or traders. You job would be to help find a resolution to their issue, liaising with other teams where needed, as well as testing and performing software releases.
Particularly in business areas, such as I.T. infrastructure, teams can often be responsible for both the engineering and support of their system. Consequently, staff in these areas can be working on a new global tool one day and fixing a problem for a user the next.
Due to the size and nature of investment banks, it is rare that employees will not work regularly with staff in other teams, which means that they get exposure to a wide range of technologies and information about how the bank’s systems work.
Most banks will offer a graduate scheme for I.T. roles that are specifically tailored for those who have good technical skills, but little or no work experience. Graduate programmes are a key recruitment area for investment banks such as Nomura, as they provide a route for the bank to hire new enthusiastic employees who can bring new ideas and skills to teams within the bank.
While good technical skills are required for most I.T. opportunities in investment banking, a computer science background isn’t always required. Business knowledge isn’t a requirement either for many roles. Banks will generally provide the training required for new graduates, so that they develop an understanding of the investment banking industry and financial processes, as well as any specific job-related roles.
Graduates working close to the trading side of the business, developing or supporting trading platforms, will need more of a business focus than others, but this is generally covered as part of their training. In contrast, graduates in other areas will often require less business knowledge, but may be exposed to technologies they had never heard of, let alone used before. However, they will be given the required training by their employer to make sure they are in a position to make a valuable contribution to their team. Some of the key skills that employers will look for will be good technical skills, strong interpersonal/teamwork skills and enthusiasm to learn new skills.
Why should you consider I.T in investment banking?
I.T. roles within investment banking can give graduates an extremely strong start to their careers by exposing them to a wide range of technologies within what can be a fast-paced environment. The industry also generally pays significantly above the national average graduate salary, as well as offering the possibility of travelling on business, due to the international scope of most investment banks.
If you want a challenging and rewarding career option, which will expose you to a wide range of leading edge technologies in a key business sector, then an I.T. role in an investment bank could be just the opportunity you are looking for.
Written by Sam Hughes
Associate @ Nomura, Corporate Division, Market Data Technology