Technologists with expertise in developing foreign exchange e-commerce platforms are in the rather privileged position of having an increasing number of banks vying for their services. As a result, salaries are on the up.
According to Euromoney rankings, the top five investment banks for FX are Deutsche Bank, UBS, Barclays, Citigroup and Royal Bank of Scotland. And, consultants Greenwich Associates are predicting that 80% of total global FX trading volumes will be conducted electronically next year.
Not surprisingly technology is paramount in gaining an edge, and banks are competing for the people who can deliver this. For instance, we understand that Deutsche's head of FX IT, Stuart Reilly, is due to start at Citigroup in the new year.
But Citigroup had to replace Anthony Woolley, who moved to HSBC CIB as global head FX E-commerce IT in July. Headhunters tell us HSBC is one of a growing number of banks hiring techies in a bid to compete with the main players in this sector.
Credit Suisse, Nomura, Société Générale and JPMorgan are also understood to be gearing up in FX IT, while Morgan Stanley and BNP Paribas have been enhancing their platforms.
"The race to have the lowest latency, high frequency FX platform has never been greater," says Paul Bennie, director of banking technology headhunter Bennie McLean. "Hiring the right staff is critical to this, and FX technology professionals are able to secure a 15% pay rise by switching roles. Historically, this would have been closer to 5%."
"Salaries for technologists within FX now outstrip equivalent level pay within most other asset classes," adds Paul Elworthy, associate director in the IT in banking and financial services division of Hudson. "If investment banks are serious about catching up with the main players, they understand the need to invest in technology."
He adds that six figure base salaries are becoming increasingly prevalent in FX IT.
But, of course, the existing top five are not going to give up their lead without a fight and realise that trading platforms can often be the differentiating factor.
As Darren Coote, managing director in FX trading at UBS, told Financial News: "Re-investment in technology as well as people are two of the essential components of staying on top."