Computer Science is useless for BB S&T

There is a lot of wrong information on this board - most likely posted by ignorant high school / undergrad students who clearly don't know jack. One piece of wrong information that keeps popping up is that computer science is massively helpful for sales and trading (S&T) at a BB. Wanna know the truth?

YOU DO NOT NEED ANY CS FOR BB S&T

Unless you specifically want the exotics desk, the only programming language you ever need to know for BB S&T is VBA for Excel, nothing more. And you do not need to know about data structures or algorithms to learn this language - it should be dirt easy. So please don't major in CS just for the sake of BB S&T recruiting. At best it will give you a marginal advantage (and you will use little to none of Java/C++ on the job) and at worst, it will fuck up your GPA.

Unless you want quant (algorithmic) trading, stick to Econ and basic finance, sprinkled with some probability/stats courses. Oh and a high GPA won't hurt either..

Hope this clears up some confusion.

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Comments (41)

Jun 28, 2011

The kids who major in CS just to get into S&T are usually the ones who don't make it. The best S&T guys I've seen are the ones who destroyed CS in college and decide to go back to school to make a career change i.e MSFE or MSF

Jun 28, 2011

Exactly, actually the best guys are usually not the ones who planned to be in S&T since they are 4 years old.
They are often among the very best in their field and just end up randomly in S&T after talking to someone, getting bored or seeing some idiot braindead classmate making twice their salary in some backwater institution.

Jun 28, 2011

I agree.

The people with CS degrees in S &T tend to be top preforming students who didn't have any clue about trading until they started looking for ways to make money with their skills. They are computer/math genesis at heart who love solving complex problems and have found a way to apply their passion/interest to trading.

Is your competitive advantage that your a comp/math genesis who spent the last 15 years pondering problems? If not do not major in CS!

Here is a check: If I gave you 3 forward curves could you quickly blend them in your head and write a quick script to create it? (note: the programing part is easy - its the set up that people can't quickly conceptualize)

Funniest
Jun 28, 2011

I dont think any of the three posters above me understand what the point of the OP's argument is

    • 2
Feb 9, 2019

You mean the dude using the term "genesis" isn't some S&T savant?

Go figure...

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Jun 28, 2011

I always thought otherwise - that CS was a beneficial background for S&T, especially for the more quantitative products (ex. derivatives)

derivstrading, can you confirm what this guy is saying? Is CS/programming not that useful in BB S&T, such as derivative products?

Jun 28, 2011

For derivative OTC trading CS is a big advantage - I think his point is that most S&T jobs are not as technical.

Jun 28, 2011

I only have experience with vanilla derivatives, but there is no need for CS on for example a flow equity derivs desk outside of VBA.

As an intern I also had some exposure to the structured credit desk and they had an IT guy and a team of quants to do all the CS stuff.

The areas where CS is important is in the quant desks (as in algo desks, not as in illiquid credit derivs).

Jun 28, 2011

Most if not all desks have quants.

But its an ADVANTAGE - esp as an analyst - if you can quickly price a OTC for your boss using a simple script. I am talking a one off non-exchange traded OTC prop trade, where the opportunity has a time constraint. The trader would probability make the trade anyways - but it sure looks good if you can quantify his gut feeling.

Also, someone with a CS background is more likely to be able to communicate with the quant to get the right requirement out of the guy.

Like I said its just ONE advantage one might have - but there are lots of advantages - play on your strengths.

Jun 28, 2011

Seriously, people on this board over-exaggerate the amount of math/CS background one needs for BB S&T. Sure a math/CS major are good signals to potential recruiters that you are a smart, competent person but in terms of actually trading on the job, quick mental math and some probability/stats is as good as it gets for about 95% of the desks.

There's a reason why banks spend millions of dollars employing quants to support the trading desks - to do all the fundamental quantitative shit for the traders.

Jun 28, 2011

People in S&T do not need to know how to programme. The quants do the programming, and the traders/structurers use the pricers and models, they are not responsible for creating them.

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Jun 28, 2011

It definitely helps to know how to code. I wouldn't major in CS but I would learn basic programming skills.

As I have mentioned before, coding is the lingua franca of the modern world. It NEVER hurts to know how to code regardless of whatever industry you are joining. Especially one which embraces technology as quickly as trading.

Jun 28, 2011

It does help to know how to code, or read code.

That said I always ask this...If your a CS/Eng grad why do you NOT want to trade exotics?

Yes, OP is right in vanilla products or equities. But most rates/exotics even some equity derivative desk today are full of CS style folk.

Jun 28, 2011

My sense is that if you're talking about debt S&T, the quant orientation will be valuable, but moreso where they have robust program trading and quant outfits, which means only the largest shops. I don't see it being all that big a plus for working in S&T for equities. Just MHO.

Jun 28, 2011

thanks! what minor can be helpful then?

Jun 28, 2011

It is definitely looked for in the more quantitative groups.

Jun 28, 2011

like option derivates and such?

Jun 28, 2011

like option derivatives and such?

Jun 28, 2011

cs is good background for most things i think, especially FI derivs

Jun 28, 2011

thanks jimbo

Feb 6, 2019

Does this still hold true? Would be interesting to hear someone's perspective who is in the industry in 2019, 8 years after this thread was made.

Feb 6, 2019

OP is generally correct...CS is overkill for most BB S&T. Math and Econ would be better underrgrad majors. You should ABSOLUTELY learn to code in Python...but you can learn that for free from youtube...no college classes required.

just google it...you're welcome

Feb 7, 2019

Couple of follow up questions..

1) Since you are in the business, could you maybe give an example of how a trader or sales person would use Python? Surely the tech team or quants would be developing widgets and tools for the Sales/Traders to use, no? Would be great to hear your feedback

2) I heard from a few people that Front Office isn't allowed by compliance (at BBs) to use Python, but rather utilize the support teams to program something in Python (kind of relates to question 1). Is this true?

3) If I am totally incorrect about 1+2, which I very well might be, to what "extent" would one need to know Python? To develop code from scratch or to be able to read someone's existing code and make a few changes? Are we talking about extensive Python knowledge or understanding basic scripting?

ALSO: would be great to hear the product or type of product you work with for context your experience with coding.

Would love to hear your thoughts, considering you have significant experience in the industry!

Feb 7, 2019

each bank is different. for all the BB banks i worked for (5), as both a trader and a desk quant, i was able to write code. i often would build stuff myself, and then hand it over to IT to make a more industrial version.

as a junior analyst, you won't be trusted to take large risk positions...so you spend the majority of your time doing other stuff..learnig markets, research, and coding projects (to build small things).

For the IT group to code something, you have to give them VERY detailed specs...which is why if you can code yourself, and you are thinking up ideas as you go, its often MUCH faster (like, months) for you to build it yourself. Desks often hire desk quants to fill this role...think like a trader, but just build stuff for the desk. Eventually, these guys usually become traders.

This is just for trading...sales guys don't code. If you have innovative trading ideas, you are not in sales...you are in trading.

for #3, yes and yes

i was (still am) a linear rates trader

just google it...you're welcome

Feb 7, 2019

Thanks for the detailed reply! It's great to hear from someone who's actually done the job and not another college student. Guess I better go learn some Python.. would you suggest VBA or Python for a SA gig?

Also, how desk specific are coding skills necessary for? Clearly it would be helpful/required on a Linear Rates desk, but about something like Credit or MBS or ABS?

Feb 7, 2019

learn VBA first...then Python

just google it...you're welcome

    • 1
Feb 7, 2019

Appreciate it. SB'd.

Feb 7, 2019

Just major in applied math and minor in computing. To be a full Computer Science major will be overkill (which is what the original point of this thread had been). Besides, if you are a computer science major, you can pull down great salaries in jobs outside of finance and generally be better off for it.

Feb 7, 2019

What about those of us who already are majoring in Finance, albeit took a few basic scripting classes? I'll be doing an S&T internship this summer and wonder whether or not I'll be at a disadvantage not having experience coding. Looking to join a Fixed Income desk.

Feb 10, 2019

The only thing you'll need to know is VBA. I'm on a bond desk and honestly I've never had to put together any insane program in my life, we hire programmers for that shit. So I wouldn't worry, you'll be fine.

Feb 7, 2019

I don't imagine most people who start in BB S&T want to necessarily stay in it. If you move to a prop shop or research trading firm it is to your benefit to be adept in quantitative skills (probability, math, some basic-mid CS).

Even moving into PM work or HFs it is still to your benefit. However solely majoring in CS for that purpose is bad. Better to go for Math/Quant Fin/Stats.

Feb 7, 2019

Maybe outside the typical sentiment, I think I want to stay in BB S&T as opposed to go to the buy side. I guess that's where I question how useful coding would be (outside of VBA).

Feb 7, 2019

The real profitability in trading is on the other side my friend.

Feb 7, 2019

Oh I don't doubt that. I guess this might be not a common view, but for me the money in FO S&T at a BB would be enough to make me happy and beyond that I would like to pick a role I would fit in best. I think my skill set aligns better with Sell-side than Buy-side, as my two strengths are people skills and pitching/explaining complex ideas concisely.

Feb 7, 2019

It is definitely up to preference. The constant fear of underperforming for a Prop shop or Quant Fund is definitely an inhibiting factor for most. Also the lack of brand recognition for most, though companies like Old Mission are extremely reputable in the industry no one outside of Traders will ever know as compared to Goldman Sachs.

Feb 7, 2019

That's a very fair point. I'm simply awaiting my SA stint this summer, so who's to know what's down the road. I guess at this point in my career, I don't see myself making the switch. But who knows?

Feb 8, 2019

Sooner rather than later probably. When you don't get your fair share for bringing home that +PnL it'll hurt. Best of luck for the summer.

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Feb 9, 2019
Feb 10, 2019
Feb 10, 2019