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investment banking IT prospects

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investment banking IT prospects

Postby orbita » Wed, 30 Nov 2011 7:07 pm

hi, I need a career advice regarding investment banking IT in Singapore.

What are the pros and cons of working in a bank compared to working in a technology company making financial software?

If you are currently holding a permanent position in a bank, would you risk it to move to a financial software company?

The reason for considering to move in the first place can be: higher pay, exposures to new domains and technologies, boring current role, etc..

Thanks a ton for any useful advice from experienced folks!

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Postby BillyB » Wed, 30 Nov 2011 7:33 pm

Banking IT at present in Singapore is looking grim. Sentiment is negative in the global banks and they are shedding staff, canning projects and reducing contractor day rates. IT are usually the first to feel the pinch - consultants, contractors and then permies.

Singapore is on slow-down mode for the next 6-12 months in the banking sector. They'll be a shed load of contractors from Singapore who won't be getting their contracts renewed as Asia will suffer as part of global cost cutting, and we'll see inflows of contractors / IT staff from the US all looking to come to Asia with the recent / pending Dodd-Frank regulatory changes that has effectively changed the investment banking world forever.

Why do you want to work for a bank? Let me guess, the money? It's not glamorous and with exception to some of the global banks, IT are usually run by socially and financially inept muppets who manage to botch everything they get their hands on. They couldn't manage a hot dinner, and take 4 times as long as a project should do to guarantee themselves a job, and they suck on everyone elses budget to do it.

You rarely work on bleeding edge projects, and will most likely be some sort of donkey boy automating spreadsheets or running reconcilliation batches to bring the banking systems into the 20th Century. The lack of technology at institutions that manage billions or trade trillions of dollars is mindblowingly jurrasic by nature.

If you can get a decent role at a reputable software vendor - go for that. shorter hours, more interesting work, likely to be managed by people who know what they are doing or are passionate about what they do, and a sharper learning curve - r&d work on developing the next version of the product as opposed to making something work in a bank.

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Postby revhappy » Thu, 01 Dec 2011 11:36 pm

Excellent post there by Billy!
I too work in a global top tier investment bank as a permanent employee. Prior to this job I have worked in several software companies. Everything that Billy has said is true to a large extent. But then you are generalising a bit as well. You can have good projects/teams in banks that work in latest technologies(luckily I do :) ) and at the same time you may have software companies especially the consulting generalists that you just wouldnt want to be associated with.

I will tell you why I would still continue to work for a bank
In banks everything is long term. The business vertical that you support is fixed. You build a relationship with them, you work on a couple of projects and prove yourself and they like you and then you have just established yourself after that its a cake walk and you can have several years of easy life ahead of you. Thats what I am having at the moment :)

In a software company your clients keep changing. The techologies you work on keeps changing. You need keep proving yourself again and again and again. I hate that kind of role. May be I am lazy, I hate change, I hate to learn anything new. Whatever you may want to call it. But thats just me and a role in bank just suits me perfectly :)

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Postby sundaymorningstaple » Thu, 01 Dec 2011 11:48 pm

So, the gist of what I got from the above post is the poster is an IT drone in a Bank and not an IT professional. Says a lot. :-|

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Postby revhappy » Thu, 01 Dec 2011 11:51 pm

sundaymorningstaple wrote:So, the gist of what I got from the above post is the poster is an IT drone in a Bank and not an IT professional. Says a lot. :-|


Like I said, call it what you may. I am happy with the money and the work(or the lack of it) :wink:

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Postby BillyB » Fri, 02 Dec 2011 9:58 am

revhappy wrote:Excellent post there by Billy!
I too work in a global top tier investment bank as a permanent employee. Prior to this job I have worked in several software companies. Everything that Billy has said is true to a large extent. But then you are generalising a bit as well. You can have good projects/teams in banks that work in latest technologies(luckily I do :) ) and at the same time you may have software companies especially the consulting generalists that you just wouldnt want to be associated with.

I will tell you why I would still continue to work for a bank
In banks everything is long term. The business vertical that you support is fixed. You build a relationship with them, you work on a couple of projects and prove yourself and they like you and then you have just established yourself after that its a cake walk and you can have several years of easy life ahead of you. Thats what I am having at the moment :)

In a software company your clients keep changing. The techologies you work on keeps changing. You need keep proving yourself again and again and again. I hate that kind of role. May be I am lazy, I hate change, I hate to learn anything new. Whatever you may want to call it. But thats just me and a role in bank just suits me perfectly :)


You're right - I was generalising a little, but glad you 'sort of' agree! Don't get me wrong, there are some excellent IT staff working in the banks in Singapore but the issues I have seen from experience is that the good staff tend to get the enthusiasm and creativity knocked out of them by managers who feel threatened and have their own political agenda. Excellent developers and BA's become run of the mill and restricted in what they do and work on monotonous run the bank projects - you know the decommissioning pieces etc. and it creates a vicious circle until that tier of management is removed and someone new comes in with fresh ideas on how to change the bank.

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Postby bgd » Fri, 02 Dec 2011 3:21 pm

Investment banking isn't a growth area at the moment and for the foreseeable future, particularly in IT.

I wouldn't be rushing into the banking world, but I guess it depends where you are coming from and the roles available to you.

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Postby orbita » Sun, 04 Dec 2011 11:36 am

thanks for all of your replies! Yes I'm facing the same dilemma as revhappy and Billy pointed out.

On one hand it's the stability of a global investment bank. Lax working hours, huge annual leave, nice perks, nice office (yeah, its' important to me. I find it hard to work in a shoddy work station without a nice screen and a good view) are always there until you realise you have taken them for granted.

On the other hand, I'm in a role in which there are not many exciting things going on. I feel this is detrimental to my career (I'm still somewhat junior) in both technology and domain. Your question as this point maybe why I'm not looking for other opportunity within the bank? Many projects employ lousy architects who dictate their designs in such ways that even myself can see they are wrong, abeit being less experienced. On top of that, I haven't been able to learn any significant business knowledge here. I was either in projects that were purely technical or short-lived domain significant ones.

The vendor touted that I will have opportunities to understand all asset classes and own from front to back significant modules, travel opportunities and of course, much higher pay. The risk is that all of this may turn out not to be true at all and all I get is long working hours trying to please the clients. By then, it would become too late to go back to the banks!

I welcome any advice with insights to the vendor world or how to navigate the complex politics in investment banks!

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Postby BillyB » Sun, 04 Dec 2011 1:22 pm

Orbita, no offence, but I made my initial comments on the basis that you seemed driven to move away from the IB world in search of pastures new - something which is admirable in the present climate.

From your comment on 'you like a nice office', you now sound like a typical IB employee on the corporate gravy train with no ambition and even less of an appetite to take a slight career risk. You're not alone but you're hardly going to set the world alight with your enthusiasm and passion, or carve a leadership career out for yourself, with a 'green and naive' comment like that.

And you mentioned the vendor is cross-product, front-to-back - that narrows it down to about 100 potential employers, each with very different internal politics and products, and levels of success in APAC. It's impossible to give insight into vendor politics without knowing more details.

I'm guessing it's sungard, murex or TR though.

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Postby orbita » Sun, 04 Dec 2011 1:49 pm

Billy, the name starts with cal*.

No offence taken, I know I'm sounding like that. And every friend of mine advices against taking the risk.

I'm very much pushed to move based on the vendor's hype.
But stability is also important in this climate, esp. if you have financial commitments

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Postby revhappy » Mon, 05 Dec 2011 9:51 am

orbita wrote: how to navigate the complex politics in investment banks!


Thats simple. Please your boss. Basically, if your boss says the sky is green, you just say, "Yes I agree" and you will have a brilliant career in the bank. :lol:

On a more serious note, if you really like the role of being a consultant, working with the clients( When I say "with", I really mean the client sitting beside you and asking you to help him solve the problem then and there! That can be some pressure, if you like it go for it). Or if the client suddenly asks you "Do you think we should upgrade to Oracle 11g?) You better give a smart answer :)

You should also be adept at doing business requirements, functional/technical documentation. Client demos/presentations and preparing user manuals and training. I just hate all of that and thats why I love my role in a bank. You should truely ask yourself if you really like doing all that or its just that you "think" that it is something good because the world "thinks" its good.

You just have 1 life and do what you want to do and not what the world thinks is right. Got my point ? :)

If you do decide to go ahead and plunge into consulting, to make sure I have the same kind of brand value of an IB, I would stick with the consulting majors like Delloite or Avanade etc

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Postby Trip Down Memory Lane » Mon, 05 Dec 2011 8:35 pm

My $0.02

Given the current economic climate personally I would not bet on stability of any organization. One can be forced to look for a job sooner then one thinks.

Personally I would look at learning opportunities, location and pay to evaluate any job.

IT is a field where one has to always update knowledge or risk being obsolete. In the financial IT world, learning the latest technologies is important but more important is to understand the business. So the more a job provides such opportunities, better for me :-)

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Postby revhappy » Tue, 06 Dec 2011 12:11 am

Trip Down Memory Lane wrote:My $0.02

Given the current economic climate personally I would not bet on stability of any organization. One can be forced to look for a job sooner then one thinks.

Personally I would look at learning opportunities, location and pay to evaluate any job.
I would look at pay on an absolute basis, and then pay on a risk adjusted basis i.e higher pay because you join a smaller org is not really higher pay. I would also look at pay on the basis of number of hours actually spent in the office, for eg if you get a 30% hike but expected to work 50% harder, I wouldn't call that a hike. Everything else is secondary ;)

IT is a field where one has to always update knowledge or risk being obsolete. In the financial IT world, learning the latest technologies is important but more important is to understand the business. So the more a job provides such opportunities, better for me :-)


Good 1st post!

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Postby sundaymorningstaple » Tue, 06 Dec 2011 12:24 am

But one that bears watching as it from an Japanese ISP........ :-|

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Postby nutnut » Tue, 06 Dec 2011 10:38 am

revhappy wrote:
Trip Down Memory Lane wrote:My $0.02

Given the current economic climate personally I would not bet on stability of any organization. One can be forced to look for a job sooner then one thinks.

Personally I would look at learning opportunities, location and pay to evaluate any job.
I would look at pay on an absolute basis, and then pay on a risk adjusted basis i.e higher pay because you join a smaller org is not really higher pay. I would also look at pay on the basis of number of hours actually spent in the office, for eg if you get a 30% hike but expected to work 50% harder, I wouldn't call that a hike. Everything else is secondary ;)

IT is a field where one has to always update knowledge or risk being obsolete. In the financial IT world, learning the latest technologies is important but more important is to understand the business. So the more a job provides such opportunities, better for me :-)


Good 1st post!


Yep, I agree, money is the most important thing in anywhere, no company can offer a permanent full time bullet proof job and no one will tell you they want you to work 18 hours a day! Make sure you take the job with the best cash ;)
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