Technology in global investment banking has gone from a necessary cost to a possible saviour.
The banks that get their technology strategy right will stay profitable at a time when sluggish global growth, low interest rates and ever-developing regulations are hitting the bottom line.
Those that don’t, won’t. Goldman Sachs is aiming to be in the former camp.
Goldman employs around 9,000 people in its tech division globally, about 25% of its total staff.
We got the opportunity to follow two of them around for the day in London: Samira, a developer working on trading applications for the foreign exchange desk; and Ria, who works in cyber-security threat detection.
Here’s what their day is like:
Meet Samira. She joined Goldman Sachs in 2014 as a developer building data visualisation apps used by the FX traders to show trading trends between the bank and its clients.
Meet Ria. She also joined Goldman Sachs in 2014 after a year on a graduate work placement. Ria works on projects to improve the bank's cyber-threat detection and response.
Both work at the Goldman Sachs' London head office, on Fleet Street. Their day starts at around 8:30 -- 9am.
These are the flags that greet them on the way in. The international dimension of the office is emphasised right from the start.
First up, breakfast. The developers have a breakfast club, and Samira spends the first 20 minutes of her day in the well-stocked canteen.
After that Samira is back at her desk, preparing for an informal 'stand-up' meeting with the rest of her four-person team.
Each member of the team talks for about one to two minutes about the projects they're working on. Only the person holding the stuffed toy (in this case a Minion) can speak, while the others have to listen.
Here's one of the data viz apps Samira is working on. It shows FX trading activity minute by minute.
Meanwhile, Ria gets to work, taking the hand-off from cyber-security colleagues in India. She'll research any active cases the team is looking at, checking blogs, paid-for information services and newswires for information on hacking threats.
She'll co-ordinate with colleagues using Symphony, Goldman Sach's in-house messaging system. It's like a mix between Twitter and Slack and looks a lot like Bloomberg's chat product.
Anything Ria finds out that could be useful for identifying cyber threats, the people behind them and what they want, she'll post it to GSConnect, an internal social network a bit like a Facebook or LinkedIn.
Over to Samira again, and she's crossing the bridge to the FX trading floor for a chat with the traders.
The trading floor is louder than the tech office and, even though it's a quiet day with no central bank announcements, it hums with energy. It's also noticeably warmer by a few degrees,
Samira chats with Adam, an emerging markets currency trader, about the apps she's working on and the features traders and clients want. Samira said she finds the traders approachable and fun to talk to.
Lunch is an event at the London office. There's a fully-functional pizza oven and you can order whatever pizza you want.
The canteen is a focal point for a lot of the office amenities. Like this cash machine that does a decent line in dollar and euro exchange rates.
In the afternoon, Ria will link up with US colleagues. Twice a week she'll have a video conference with the team in Texas. The cyber threat group is a 24/7 operation. Ria said her day will end at around 6pm or so but it can go later if she's working on an active threat and needs to stay in touch with the US.
Here's how the video conference looks. Most of the people at the meeting are recent joiners and the threat intelligence team itself is relatively new. The meeting lasts around 30-60 mins.
Staff can also use a huge gym on the lower ground floor. The gym is run by a concession and analysts can get monthly memberships at a subsidized rate.
As if that wasn't enough, the office has the only on-site corporate child care centre in the City. Parents returning from maternity or paternity leave get four free weeks of childcare.
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