Tech work at banks sucks
Hello all. I am a SWE, and I'm just coming here to say one thing: engineering at a big bank fucking sucks.
At my current job I make tc of about 500k a year, but if I were to jump over to a bank I would only be making 225ish(Quoted from HH who does recruiting for bank tech) Even if I were to jump in a role 2 stages ahead of me, on average I would still take a pay cut of about 50k. At entry level roles the pay across FAANG and high growth companies like Stripe, Uber, and Airbnb is going to drastically outpace swe at banks, oftentimes being double what banks offer. A big reason behind this is the lack of equity compensation and the fact that banks treat you like a cost and not an investment, which I'll get into later. Most tech companies will offer higher base and bonus, with equity giving a massive bump. There's literally no salary advantage to taking a bank job over a tech job, and Walmart actually pays swe more a.
Idk if I can call working at a bank a snooze fest, but it sure would be close. Everyone I've talked to in banking swe says that you don't get to work with any newer tech or work with faster cloud development. Instead, your work consists of maintaining legacy code written by Moses himself and trying to make sure that the dumpster fire of code dumped on you doesn't explode and lose the bank half a million dollars. This becomes so much worse if no one has taken notes on the code, and because swe already has high churn and many of these banks simply don't care about tech as long as it works, the code oftentimes has literally nothing in terms of where things go and why things work.
Now, this entire next section is going to be much more anecdotal/hear-say and less fact based, as everyone's experience is different, but based on what I've heard talking to friends working in banks the treatment of engineers is horrible. First, WLB sucks. The culture at banks is very much still that work hard play hard type mentality, and that carries over to engineers in a big way. Most work significantly harder than their tech counterparts. Now, I know many of you are grumbling hearing this after finishing yourthat will get looked at for all of 2 seconds, but hear me out. The work in swe is highly technical, and most going into the field are smart, but I can tell you we don't go into cs to work banker hours. I honestly admire how bankers are able to have such high levels of attention to detail after working 15 hours straight, as I literally can't think after working 10 straight. Yall built different. Another big issue faced by tech workers is the aforementioned being treated like an expense and not a investment. Engineers are treated like employees(which we are) meaning we're looked down upon by the and higher ups. There's also little room for advancement, with many engineers being stuck in VP hell, unable to climb any higher.
There is simply less opportunities to learn from higher ranking engineers because most of the for lifers at banks aren't as talented(albeit they are usually hard working) as in tech companies. Many of your peers at the banks will be people who weren't able to secure jobs at tech firms and settled for a bank, with hopes of leveraging it to get into FAANG. Many actually take the dreadedover banks to get the learning experience and be able to leverage to get a better tech job. Many can get pigeonholed into banking because you spend too much time away from technologies such as AWS, Azure, github, and other enterprise technologies which help a ton for engineers to learn and advance down the line.
Ah yes, the promise land of becoming a quant. Many swe would dream of this role. However, outside of a few, it comes with major tradeoffs. First, all your skills are built solely around backend tech, and you become incredibly good with C++, but when you need to build a website and use a cloud service for it you have no experience with HTML/CSS or AWS, so you need to learn a ton just to get a full stack job. Also, for many, the drawbacks of stress that comes with constantly needing to be perfect and never mess up at work gets people stressed out(MM HF people would know what this is like) It's a much more niece style of work, and at banks it actually still pays worse than top tech firms. Outside of HF, tech is still a higher paying job with better hours, career optionality, WLB, and overall mental health.
This all makes the future of banks scary. Let's not kid ourselves here,is absolutely expanding and could pose a serious threat to all of finance. This means that if banks want to compete, they'll have to start investing into tech big time, and that starts with talent. We see tech firms claim to make big investments in tech all the time, but oftentimes this is just a move for investor relations, not real tangible investments into genuine improvements. I've used Neobanking apps and traditional old banking apps, and the difference really is night and day. Also, this likely means that until banks start to invest more heavily into tech, your jobs will have a >1% chance of being taken over by Ai, which I can do a full post discussing. Overall, the lack of tech investment will long term hurt the banks in multiple major areas. Startups in the make transactions between individuals instant, and the possibility to make equities and into blockchain that doesn't require t+2 could completely destroy banks market making and trading businesses overnight. The threat of robo investing and passive could potentially have detrimental effects on banks wealth management. The rise of Neobanks offering better rates and more convenient low cost accounts where you don't constantly feel like you're getting railed in the ass( ) could majorly affect consumer banking. P2P lending could completely lenders and potentially lead to an outright destruction of consumer lending, with the potential for commercial lending down the line. All of this might seem super out there and almost impossible, but I've worked directly with companies like Sofi, upstart, robinhood, coinbase, and stripe and they're all making massive leaps, and their current technology lead makes me think that for many of these issues it's not an if, but rather when.
That's just a long rant on tech in banks. I look forward to being proven wrong by others in the comments, and I hope you can forgive me for wasting the last 5 minutes of your life.