I’m in the wrong job. As a sales-trader in a bank I’m continuously told that my skills are on the way out. No one wants a human to read the markets any more. Everyone wants technologists – for some reason called engineers – who can write code to do the job instead. These engineers like to complain they’re not being paid enough. “How come front office people are still paid more than engineers?”, is a frequent question. Well, maybe it’s because we work a lot harder than you?
I work 12 hours a day. I’m in the office by 6.30am to establish what happened in Asia overnight and to prepare for the day. When markets close at 4.30pm I stay around to talk to clients and review what happened. This is not a nine-to-five job.
I also work fast. In my job, things are done with a sense or urgency. I am not proud of being in a hurry all the time, but it’s inherent in working on a trading floor. Markets move quickly.
In the technology team, I see a diametrically opposite approach. Our technologists arrive two hours later than me and they leave at least half an hour earlier. Their days are passed at a leisurely pace with a lot of surfing the internet. They’re always, “busy”, but there’s a lot of busy doing nothing. It’s like they have a different concept of time: one in which things are very slow.
The most surprising thing is that the bank seems to support them in this. While we’re being made to work faster to justify our existence, the tech team gets to wear hoodies and book tickets to music festivals on the company time. Management treats them like children: at J.P. Morgan they even get todraw on the furniture.
What’s worst, though, is their superiority. If you work in technology, you are cool. If you work in trading, you are not. A lot of these people seem to consider themselves overqualified for the jobs they’re doing here. Either that, or they just don’t like working because I see little sign of self-discipline or enthusiasm.
So, no – let’s not pay them more. Let’s pay them less and only reward them for their results. This is how it was in trading for years. If they don’t like it, they can try their luck at the Googles and Palantirs that probably won’t hire them anyway. And if they do like it, they can work harder and longer so that they deliver. Maybe they’ll start turning up 6.30am too? Then they can start talking about equal pay.
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