Trading app Robinhood has been much in the news lately, for various reasons. First, it forced other financial firms (including Charles Schwab) to emulate its commission-free model. Then it experienced repeated outages, especially during periods of high stock-market volatility, which irritated the legions of traders who rely on the platform. Last but not least, some traders have profited immensely (while others have lost insane amounts of money) via the app’s short-selling options.
In other words, it’s an enormously complicated app, combining some of the hottest and trickiest elements of both finance and technology. But forget (at least for the moment) the people using the app to buy Apple stock or short Tesla—is it lucrative to actually work at Robinhood as a software engineer?
The short answer: yes. Using levels.fyi, which crowdsources compensation data, we can see that those starting out as software engineers at the app can make nearly $200,000 per year. That exceeds what entry-level software engineers make at Capital One, Visa, Coinbase, and Bloomberg—all finance IT firms, or financial firms trying to give themselves the gloss of tech companies as fast as they can. Check out the numbers:
The big caveat, of course, is that crowdsourcing might not be the most scientifically accurate way to determine compensation numbers at a particular company. A few highly paid software engineers, for instance, can skew an overall average. However, levels.fyi’s crowdsourced numbers often align relatively closely with those on other sites that crowdsource compensation, such as Glassdoor, so we can trust that the ranges presented here are at least somewhat accurate.
In a way, it’s not surprising that finance startups like Robinhood and Coinbase (which trades cryptocurrency) pay such high salaries, especially in comparison with older, more established firms such as Visa or Capital One. Startups that attract buzz tend to pull in a good deal of venture capital, at least in pre-COVID times; these companies then utilize that capital to hire the best talent possible, in hopes of continuing an aggressive growth trajectory. The higher salaries also reflect the need to keep that talent away from larger companies that have plenty of resources, but aren’t necessarily willing to make oversized bets on individual engineers or developers.
Gig-economy startups such as Uber pay similarly well; check out this chart, also sourced from levels.fyi, that breaks down total compensation at some of the hottest startups of the past few years:
Yet WeWork, Airbnb, Uber, and Lyft share a common problem at the moment: The pandemic has devastated their bottom lines and forced them to radically retool their business models in order to survive. In the wake of its recent scandals, WeWork is in particular trouble. If you’re a skilled software engineer who signs onto a startup, you’re possibly setting yourself up for immense monetary success—but even the hottest startups come with a degree of risk. That applies to financial companies as much as rideshare or office-share firms.
In any case, it seems that working in finance IT can translate into strong compensation opportunities, provided you have the necessary skills and experience.