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Engineering jobs in banks vs hedge funds: people and perks

If you’re a senior engineer looking to break into financial services technology after leaving a technology firm, you might be contemplating technology jobs at fintech firms, investment banks or hedge funds. There are similarities between the two, but there are also substantial differences. 

Marc Adler, a New York-based chief architect with over three decades of experience in both settings, calls out the distinctions.

Hedge fund technology jobs: Move fast, make decisions

Adler spent nearly two years as head of front office development at Citadel in 2011. He's also worked as chief architect at Quantifi, a specialist provider of analytics, trading and risk management solutions. When you're at a hedge fund in particular, Adler says “things transpire at a much accelerated rate.” If you can prove that you need something in a hedge fund, you will get it. 

By comparison, Adler says banks are a lot more bureaucratic. You can expect "aggravation" when you make investment requests. Contracts that would be signed within three weeks in a hedge fund can take six months in a bank.  

Hedge fund technology jobs: Own your outcomes 

Working for a hedge fund can have downsides though. Adler says you're given a lot of autonomy. But you're also expected to work a lot harder. They "expect more," he adds. 

Hedge fund technology jobs: Come for the benefits 

If you like the perks for a technology firm, you'll like the perks of a hedge fund. Free lunches are common. There are "gourmet meals", says Adler.  

Investment banks: Camaraderie among technologists

Banks have advantages too. Number one is the team spirit they generate.

Adler's worked for multiple banks, including Goldman Sachs and Citi. When you're a technologist in a bank he says “there’s always a sense of community.” This is the true benefit of a banking job. Developers in banks have drinks together after work, he says. In hedge funds, this is a lot less common - you're working too hard.  

Where should you work if you want to innovate?

Hedge funds do tend to be more innovative in nature, but the way they do so can vary.

“Some use garden variety Linux and C++,” says Adler. “Some are just standard programming while their edge is in the algorithm strategies and back testing. Others will use technologies to the max, using microwave transmitters and GPUs. “

This isn't to say that banks don't innovate. Goldman Sachs famously developed its own programming language (Slang) to fill a gap in the market before Python was popular. On the whole though, innovation is greater in funds. 

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AUTHORAlex McMurray Editor

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