working for a bank

This year I’ve started a new job within the financial industry, for a major investment bank. Is the IT any different in a bank as opposed to the “real world”?

Well, although it’s a bit early perhaps to form an expert opinion on this, I can say I have noticed important differences.


In a bank, IT is support. That doesn’t mean necessarily being on the phone and helping traders use the software, it means the IT is there just to support the business. Nothing more. If the business discovers one day that it can do without IT, that’s it.

Banks are very pragmatic entities. In the good time, they grow and pay big bonuses. But in the bad times, they’re among the first to slash jobs. They have to be flexible, they’re in the services industry, they have to keep the fix cost down. Due to the ongoing credit crunch, a lot of banks have put a lot of people on the streets. Fortunately not too many in IT, but banks are known to be merciless, so if the situation gets worse, who knows what’s going to happen…

But job security is more of a concern in the financial industry than in “common” IT. If you’re looking for job security, then maybe financial IT is not for you. But it’s something you get used to, as everything else I suppose.


Because the IT is only there to support the business, it needs to be more flexible and the turnaround needs to be much quicker than in “common” IT. The “business” generally perceives the IT within the bank as very slow. They want new features yesterday all the time. If they can do it in Excel, they will do it themselves.


As such, demands for quick turnaround put pressure on the quality of the product. The IT products within the financial community are not fantastic. They’re mediocre, but they only need to get the job done, not to win awards. There’s not much time set aside for fixing code and you can find rotten code in many areas but as long as it works, why fix it. That’s the attitude.


Flexibility is key. That’s because the traders change their minds a lot. And especially with the credit crunch, a lot of things need to be reinvented. Strategies that used to work before, don’t work anymore. But also traders are not the most patient people. For them is all about the money and bonuses, so they can’t understand why IT are so slow in delivering what they need. That’s why most of them stick to Excel, because they can do a lot of stuff themselves.


Salaries are much better in banking than in common IT. And there’s always the bonus. People work more, better and they appear to care more because they’re always thinking about the bonus at the end of the year. Schedules are made so that they deliver before the bonus period, even if the product might need a bit more TLC before deployment.

So expect to work harder for better salaries and bonuses.

At the same time, it’s an opportunity to learn more about technology. The more you work, the more you learn, isn’t it?


Technology is generally lagging behind in banks. Banks are late adopters, very conservative people. So don’t expect to be on the cutting edge of the technology. But it’s not very bad either. A positive spin would be to say you only work with mature technologies.


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