Although Apple releasing a credit card attracted a lot of attention earlier this year, the technology industry has always been interested in finance. It’s been two decades since the launch of PayPal, after all, and companies such as Stripe and Square have spent the past few years experimenting with payment technology. There’s a solid revenue stream there—if you get your model right.
At first glance, tech-finance might seem to be an especially lucrative avenue for software engineers to pursue—it doesn’t seem like an industry focused on cash (and how it moves around the globe) would struggle to generate adequate funding for paying staffers a top-shelf salary.
And for the most part, you’d be right. We consulted levels.fyi, which crowdsources compensation data, to see how much software engineers earned at Stripe (which creates payment-processing infrastructure for the web), Square (which focuses on credit-card payments via mobile devices), and PayPal (the OG of online payment services). Just to make things a little more interesting, we also threw in Visa and Capital One, which are traditional credit-card companies that nonetheless need software engineers to build and maintain apps, database infrastructure, and so on.
Check out the chart:
What can we tell from the data? For starters, the older and more traditional companies—PayPal, Visa, and Capital One—are a bit stingy when it comes to stock, at least in comparison to Stripe and Square. Perhaps that’s because Stripe and Square are run with more of a startup mentality (although both are pretty old by “startup” standards), which means giving software engineers big blocks of stock in anticipation of (potential) future riches. As we explained in our article on gig economy software engineer salaries, the risk of such a strategy is that the company will fail to IPO (or the IPO will prove underwhelming), which can degrade or destroy any equity that the employee has managed to build up through years of hard work.
All that aside, there really isn’t much difference between these firms when it comes to base salary, despite different corporate missions (and the age and size of the companies themselves).
Software Engineering Beyond Finance
But when it comes to software engineer compensation, how do these firms match up against companies in other industries? The answer is: roughly the same. Take a look at software engineer compensation at Apple, Microsoft, Google, and IBM:
In other words, there’s no “premium” to working at a finance-based tech company, versus a tech company focused on some other industry or segment. Across all tech companies, though, it’s pretty clear that companies are willing to pay handsomely for technologists who have specialized and in-demand skills, such as artificial intelligence (A.I.) and machine learning.