Grads Aiming for Finance IT Must Know Coding

Not long ago, students joining investment banks’ graduate programs were specialists in finance and economics, and busy studying the CFA Level 1 exam to get ahead. Now they’re more likely to be found learning Python in the evenings. 

“There is pretty much no grad coming in now who doesn’t know how to code,” said Elly Hardwick, UBS’s new chief digital officer at the recent Women of Silicon Roundabout conference in London. “I don’t think any organization can set a business strategy now without technology being a part of it.” 

The inflow of technically literate graduates is spurring existing staff to up-skill. Speaking at the same conference, Ciara Quinlan, head of electronic principal trading for rates, FX and credit at UBS, said plenty of the banks’ existing traders and salespeople are taking data science courses offered by the bank, presumably in an effort to remain relevant.

An electronic engineer with a PhD in digital processing, Quinlan said she herself initially only planned to work in banking for two years, but is still in the industry 12 years later. There’s been a noticeable change in banking culture since the financial crisis, she added: “The culture was very aggressive and male… [the financial crisis] cleared out a lot of that culture… those people don’t work in banking now and that behavior isn’t tolerated.”

As the cognitive diversity in banking has increased, Quinlan said banks are looking beyond archetypal loud salesman-types. “People are waking up and realizing that the quiet person in the corner might have the most innovative idea.”

Before joining UBS in February 2019, Hardwick spent two years as head of innovation at Deutsche Bank and two years in strategy at Thomson Reuters. “I am not a technologist,” she said. Instead, she spent time in banks, data vendors and startups, and understands the application of technology in finance. As the new generation of graduate coders matures, the Hardwicks of the future may need to learn to code, too.

This article originally appeared in eFinancialCareers.