Technology drives our business

Senior Morgan Stanley employees give the ins and outs of a career in IT within the financial services.
Technology at a bank

Banking and investment organisations conduct millions of transactions every day across global financial markets, from commodities and exotic derivatives trades to securitisation deals and many more. This is only possible because of the technology solutions provided by their IT divisions, from front-end sales and trading applications, quantitative analytics engines and risk analysis systems to data warehousing, settlement and position-keeping systems. First and foremost, IT is a business enabler. Within an investment bank or investment management firm, the aim is to use technology in an optimal way to provide solutions to the business and enable it to move forward. The systems we build must be user-friendly, fast, flexible, as automated as possible and highly available.

An IT department is often a significant organisation in its own right, structured and managed as a business. This may include a centralised infrastructure division which owns the networks, hardware and major technical components. Application development teams will usually work closely with the business units they are supporting (e.g. equities) while still being part of a global enterprise development group. Support functions are also a critical part of the business. Across the IT organisation positions may be internal or client facing, and many roles offer opportunities for travel.

IT in banking and investment is fast-paced, so it is definitely not the place for anyone seeking a sedate life in the technology sector. Global markets are volatile creatures; new financial products are developed daily and investment flows change constantly. IT departments need to be able to respond in this dynamic environment: agility and innovation are key. Focus on keeping up to speed with how technology is being used to support and enable business, not just the technology itself. On the business side, it's important to have a high-level understanding of how capital markets operate and how trends impact the way financial organisations do business and use technology.

Skills required

A technology-related degree can be an advantage but isn't always essential, depending on the role. Most importantly you should demonstrate a keen interest in technology and a strong aptitude for working with it. Strong communication, team working and problem-solving skills are essential. Don't bother if...

... you don't like to work under pressure, or if you can't work well as part of a team.

Starting out

Most organisations provide graduate training programmes to build on your existing technology skills and prepare you for your first role. In your second role, you might decide to specialise in one particular area or become a 'generalist' working across business areas. Responsibility and accountability come quickly and within five years you could expect to be a senior developer, perhaps managing a small team.

Best bits

  • You'll get to work in a fast-paced, constantly changing and dynamic environment.
  • Working with colleagues who are passionate about how technology can be applied in a practical way to enable business.

Worst bits

  • The fast-paced environment is exciting but can be stressful at times.
  • Internal users are typically considered and treated as clients so really you cannot avoid client contact! Interpersonal skills are key...

Investment banks are large organisations, made up of many different business areas, which operate across global financial markets. All business units use technology intensively to work in the most effective way and to keep ahead of the competition, to serve its clients in the best, most innovative ways possible. Millions of transactions take place daily, some for enormous sums of money, which means that the technology systems are business critical. They must be fast and be very capable.

Investment banks typically employ thousands of technology professionals who cover a broad spectrum of roles, from building and supporting the network infrastructure of the whole bank to taking a financial concept and executing it in code. There are people who assess and buy vendor technologies and those who buy whole buildings and fill them with technology. Some application development groups are aligned to a business unit, for example equities trading or securities, while others are aligned to an area of technology, for example .NET.

You need to know...

An investment bank's technology division is business critical and are aligned to their client strategies. Projects are driven by the business areas they serve, so when economic conditions change, technologists respond by providing solutions that helps to maintain the organisation's competitive advantage or to help it seize opportunities in new markets. Progress is very quick and project timescales aren't prolonged. You can achieve a great deal in a very short time and experience a lot of variety.

To work in investment banking technology you need to be client focused - your client could be another IT professional, an internal client, such as a trader, or an external client. Investment banks have high performance cultures so you have to be capable, committed and results orientated.

Who can apply?

Most graduates working in investment banking technology have a technology-related degree, but this isn't always essential. Overall, candidates need to demonstrate a strong aptitude for IT and how technology can be applied within a business context. The ability to communicate well and work effectively and constructively in a team is essential. It also helps to have gained some understanding of how the finance sector and markets work before you apply.

Getting in and getting on

Graduate technologists typically start out in roles that are matched to their skills and they will contribute from day one. You might be given ownership of part of a project and then take on greater responsibility as your capability increases and the depth of your knowledge grows. Investment banks provide extensive training throughout your career, through both formal and on the job learning, which allows you to maximise and develop your skills and knowledge.

It's possible to have a long and varied career within just one organisation. As you advance, you might progress within your business unit, manage a specialist area of technology, become a deep technical expert, or manage a team. Investment banks are global entities, so many roles also have scope for travel.

Choose this if...

  • You like a challenge and want a career with variety.
  • You want to work in a dynamic and progressive environment.
  • You want to work in a meritocracy - the best ideas are always used regardless of a person's level.

Why did I choose Morgan Stanley?

I had always been interested in moving to London and I wanted something challenging. What drew me to Morgan Stanley were the people. Everyone genuinely seemed to enjoy their work and be interested in sharing their honest insights into the firm. I really enjoyed my two-day assessment centre and was again impressed by the enthusiasm and openness of everyone I met. It was very obvious throughout that Morgan Stanley had a great commitment to their graduate program and the continuing development of all their staff. By the time I returned home I was convinced it was the job for me and was very relieved to get my offer over the phone the following day. I think the culture at Morgan Stanley is one of its great strengths. The firm has an open and balanced feel and it really is an enjoyable place to work.

What do I do on the job?

I've been at Morgan Stanley for nearly eight years and have had quite a few roles. Currently I am managing a large global team which consists of 20 people over seven locations. Our team focuses on renovating Morgan Stanley's client allocation technology: designing and supporting new systems to handle the allotment of clients' trades to the various funds they have accounts for. It's a complex and time-critical client-facing process so there are plenty of day-to-day challenges keeping it all running smoothly and meeting client demands. In addition, because we are a new system there is also lots of design and analysis work as we try to improve the existing systems both internally and at other banks. I work as the local team manager, a system architect, developer, integrator, project manager and business analyst so I do a lot of different tasks every day. Right now I'm working on a global department-wide renovation project so as well as my day-to-day tasks, like one-to-one meetings with my team, reviewing our plans or coding the latest fix or feature, I'm also doing a lot of analysis and integration work.

What I love most about my job is...

One of the things I love about my job is that we see the full lifecycle from an initial idea through designing, developing, deploying and supporting the full solution; it gives you a real feeling of accomplishment and also gives you the chance to build an outstanding level of business knowledge and contacts. In the bigger picture, technology is more and more central in financial services and I am involved in decisions that will help shape the strategy and success of Morgan Stanley for the next five to ten years, and maybe more...

When I am not at work, I am...

Outside of work I have lots of hobbies and tend to throw myself wholeheartedly into whatever is going on. I organise a big ski trip each year for a group of friends and colleagues which is always great fun, and also try to get in a few weekends if the snow is right. In the summer I like to get out to somewhere a little warmer to sail for a couple of weeks and horse riding whenever I get a chance. Who wouldn't be excited by that!

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