Wall Street Firms Scout for Fresh IT Talent

While the media is abuzz with stories of graduates languishing in unemployment, graduates from top schools in computer science and other majors are starting to get multiple offers from investment banking firms.

According to technology executives at Wall Street firms, campus recruiting at the top universities in computer science, engineering and other technology-related majors has become increasingly important for building a leading-edge investment banking firm. With the rise of social media, mobile apps and other innovative technologies, firms are looking to the colleges as a rich source of young IT talent. When the newly recruited Chief Technology Officer recently joined Blackstone Group, the specialist in private equity and alternative asset management advisory, one of his first initiatives was to start on-campus recruiting program by targeting leading technology schools such as Carnegie Mellon, Rensselear Polytechnic Institute, University of Pennsylvania and Stevens Institute of Technology.

New Thinking

While investment banking firms continue to hire more experienced professionals, hiring newly minted graduates has its advantages.  New hires are not encumbered by the old ways of doing things, as they bring in fresh ways of thinking. Wall Street firms are not confining their search to only the top schools. They feel rather than hiring the bottom of the class at the top schools, it’s logical to hire the top of the class at the second-tier engineering schools.

Companies like Sapient Global Markets, a provider of consulting services to the capital markets and commodities organizations, feel that in the wake of the dot-com bust in 2000, fewer of the top students pursue the computer science major. Hence Sapient hires from a broader population of majors.

Code vs Culture

Several Wall Street CIOs downplayed the importance of knowing a specific computer language, contending that the students with the right aptitude can learn on the job. Regardless of what degree they earn, or where they earn it, graduates must have certain skills to join Wall Street IT organizations. While capital markets CIOs and CTOs typically want IT candidates to know specific languages such as Java and C++, the so-called hard IT skills are not the only sought-after skills. Today, with the emphasis on collaboration and team and fitting into a firm’s culture, the so-called soft skills are gaining greater attention.

Sapient feels that while Java and Microsoft .NET are “hot” languages, anyone with a visualization background and familiarity with apps and interfaces is a potential hire. Sapient even hired English majors who have the right aptitude to learn with fantastic people skills.

A few leading investment banking firms have started borrowing a page from Google and Silicon Valley companies testing candidates’ aptitude by asking them case-type questions and logical questions to gauge how they troubleshoot and solve problems.

Thus despite the view that the U.S. economy is sluggish and it’s hard for new college graduates to get a job, financial services firms are hiring. In fact, top Investment Banking firms are reaching out to the elite colleges in a huge way to bring in the best and brightest graduates whom they can groom to fit their cultures.

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