Smart Java developers need to skill-up in Scala

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Scala has gone mainstream in financial services. The programming language can hardly be described as ‘new’, but an increasing number of banks are using it in their technology projects. Techies would be wise to take note.

The likes of Credit Suisse, HSBC, J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley, UBS and commodities trading firm Trafigura have all used Scala in their tech projects, and some of these firms are actively recruiting for developers with knowledge of programming language.

Scala describes itself as a “general purpose” programming language, sitting between object-oriented programming languages like Java and C++ and functional languages tied more closely to mathematical calculations.

Banks are using Scala for a cross-asset trading platforms as well as systems aligned to a particular product whether that’s rates, equities or equity derivatives.

The good news for any skilled Java developers is that it’s not a massive jump in order get to grips with Scala – it runs on Java VM and, despite having to learn some new syntax, is fairly similar.

“Many existing companies who depend on Java for business critical applications are turning to Scala to boost their development productivity, applications scalability and overall reliability,” says James Richmond, sales director at IT in Finance recruiters Cititec. “As a consequence, demand for Scala developers has grown dramatically whilst at the same time Scala has matured and spawned a solid support ecosystem.”

There are some caveats to all this, however. The first is that most investment banks are unlikely to recruit for Scala developers in isolation – it’s still generally seen as a desirable skill for Java developers, or viewed as an extra string to the bow, rather than a core requirement.

The second is that, even as demand picks up and where banks are recruiting for Scala developers, salaries have not sky-rocketed. Instead, banks are often looking outside of the financial sector for the technical expertise, luring them across with bigger pay packets than they could expect in other industries.

The result is that salaries still hover around the relatively good (but not astronomical) £60-90k mark, according to Cititec figures. Day rates for contractors are around £500-600.

“The reality is that more developers are focusing on Scala and thus simple supply and demand is dictating that salaries are less on the increase than previously.  Also within the contract market, there is a trade off with rates versus length of contract,” says Richmond.

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