Guest comment: Are IT jobs recession-proof?

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If those who occupy them are intelligent and dedicated, they just might be, says Phil Albinus, editor of Waters magazine.

As investment firms, especially those in the US, announce massive layoffs in the wake of the credit crisis, the legions of technologists might be safe - for now, at least.

One reason for this is that it is far easier to replace traders who fail to meet their targets than it is to dump the men and women who keep the systems up and running. This may seem illogical because on paper the traders make money and the techies hail from that dreaded place known as the land of cost centres. They cost money and spend money and do not generate revenue.

But this doesn't matter so much, thanks to advances in trading platforms and ever faster markets. Techies are ever more important.

Traders, no matter how quick, prescient or macho, can always be replaced by algorithms created by Russian mathematicians who were educated to create war game scenarios for the Soviet Navy. These whizzes now devise algorithms that pinpoint the exact time to execute deals. Combined with super-fast trading systems, these formulae are smarter and arguably wiser than any floor-full of traders an investment firm could ever hope to gather.

Intelligent and dedicated technologists are not a resource a firm should slough off lightly. Granted, we are entering rough economic waters, but there is one truth no one can deny: recessions always come to an end. And no investment firm wants to be caught unprepared for the recovery.

When the storm passes, firms must be ready for the sunshine. The technologists who build and maintain high-speed systems, resilient back offices, and state-of-the-art trading floors are more valuable than ever.

Phil Albinus is editor of IT magazine, Waters, where this article first appeared. You can contact him on phil.albinus@incisivemedia.com or see www.watersonline.com.

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