COVID-19 Coaxing Finance Technologists to Job-Switch

If you’re a technologist working for an investment bank, the emergence of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus sweeping the globe, might have an unexpected upside: Weeks working remotely will mean more time to prepare for the onerous tests required of anyone who wants to join a big technology firm.

We’ve written about the time-suck that is the coding tests for new developer jobs. Even if you never need to confront an in-person whiteboard test, many companies require software developers and engineers to undergo rounds of online testing at some point during the interview process. “All of the problems I’ve tackled have been a minimum of two days’ work,” complained one bank developer.

As COVID-19 makes its way through major cities, remote work is on the rise. Banks such as JPMorgan have already split tech staff into two teams, and are rotating them between the home and the office on two-week schedules. Other banks may yet do the same. Some of the technologists now hanging out at home in their underwear say the extra time saved on the commute is being put to good use preparing to apply to the likes of Facebook.

“It makes it easier to find the time for this,” said one senior developer at a U.S. bank who’s interviewing with a major tech firm soon. The application process for the likes of Facebook and other big tech firms is “horrendous,” he added: “The algorithms interviews require hundreds of hours on Leetcode. They will only ever get people who are prepared to jump the hoops, and not the best engineers.”

Another senior technologist, who suffered during the pre-Christmas cull at Morgan Stanley, suggested that technologists at banks need to devote extra time to test preparation because tech firms’ requirements are unlike those at financial firms, and because most senior technologists in banking aren’t necessarily front-line coders. Again, forced work-from-home policies due to COVID-19 could provide that opening.

“The challenge is that the top tech firms are hiring something like the top 99.99th percentile of coders, so it’s a very high bar,” he said. “To make it through you need sufficient time to practice their coding problems.” COVID-19 might just provide that. 

For more COVID-19 content, check out the COVID-19 Jobs Resource Center.

A version of this article originally appeared in eFinancialCareers.