Wall Street traders must learn to code or risk redundancy
‘The short, short description of it is making money, capital and risk programmable,’ Martin Chavez, an architect of Goldman Sachs’s effort to transform itself with tech, says
New York — Just how important will the ability to write computer code be to a successful career on Wall Street?
According to R Martin Chavez, an architect of Goldman Sachs’s effort to transform itself with technology, “It’s like writing an English sentence.”
As Chavez prepares to leave the company, the onetime commodities staffer who rose to posts overseeing technology and ultimately trading, is reflecting on his “26-year adventure” in the industry. “The short, short description of it is making money, capital and risk programmable,” he said in a Bloomberg TV interview to be broadcast on Friday.
“There are certainly many kinds of manual activities that computers are just better at.”
Chavez outlined strengths that can help humans stay relevant, such as their relationship skills and ability to assess risks. Yet he predicted that long-standing career dichotomies on Wall Street, such as trader vs engineer, will go away. To keep working, people will need both of those skills.
Even money is going digital, a shift that goes far beyond cryptocurrencies, he said, pointing to the success of Stripe as an example of creating new ways to move funds.
Stripe, for its part, has become one of the most valuable companies in Silicon Valley.
Once Chavez leaves the bank at the end of 2019, he plans to focus on “programmable money” and spend time thinking about, and investing, in “programmable life”.
In many ways, his career to date illustrates Wall Street’s own evolution. He was early in combining traditional banking activities and engineering, honing skills in the 1990s that companies are now vying to bring into their top ranks.
He was also openly gay at Goldman Sachs at a time when it was virtually unheard of. And he’s Latino, a group particularly underrepresented across Wall Street’s leadership.
His mother used to tell him that he would have to work twice as hard to be successful — which he called “excellent, excellent advice”. Ironically, something that helped him in his career, he said, was being able to speak Spanish in his job.
His mom also coached him not to get wound up by what other people say. He said the lesson he took from one of her mantras, “Que digan misa,” was that “I’m just going to do what I know is right, I’m going to do my thing, and trust that it’s going to work out.”