4 Chicago trading tech firms share what they look for in developers

Andreas Rekdal
September 29, 2016

Thanks in large part to the city's long history as a global finance hub, Chicago has no shortage of companies centered around trade. But the world of finance has undergone a complete transformation over the past few decades: employees on the industry's cutting edge are technologists recruited for their math skills and tech savviness just as much as their traditional business acumen.

To give you a sense of where the world of trading is at, we spoke with four companies about their technology platforms — and what you need to do to get your foot in the door in the industry.

 

Headquartered in 222 South Riverside Plaza at the edge of the West Loop, Trading Technologies builds professional trading software for traders, brokers, money managers, funds and risk managers. Its newest platform, TT, lets finance professionals access more than 40 major international exchanges from any internet-connected device.

The technology they’re working on

Work on the new SaaS platform has given many of Trading Technologies’ long-tenured developers the opportunity to try their hands at a new delivery model and the latest cloud and mobile technology. Since the launch of TT last year, the company’s engineering team has been developing new features and functionalities for the platform, expanding into new, cutting-edge languages and frameworks along the way.

What does Trading Technologies look for in developers?

“Our team is a unique mix. Many of our employees have worked in trading shops and banks, giving them first-hand experience with what our customers need, want and are challenged with,” said Executive VP of Global HR Katie Burgoon. “We hire a lot of junior talent out of universities around the country and world. Many of these employees come directly out of our summer internship program. Most of our incoming engineers have computer science and engineering degrees, but many also have finance, economics and even art degrees. Our philosophy is to hire smart, capable and creative people — people who think outside of the box and industry boundaries. From there, you can build great diverse teams.”

How do you get a foot in the door in the trading tech industry?

“Continue to show up, to apply yourself and not be afraid to do things differently. Being a young professional in the world of fintech is unlike any other profession,” said Burgoon. “It yields some of the brightest talent I have ever laid eyes on. Some of the wisest and most creative minds are cultivating here. Each day, show up with a tenacious mindset. A curious mindset. Take risks and do the hard work to back up what you offer in opinion or potential contribution. And take a programming class or two, even if you don’t plan on being a developer. The exposure will unlock many opportunities for you.”

 

Understanding how your investments are doing is difficult without context. NextCapital helps gather all the pieces of an investor’s portfolio in one place and benchmark their portfolio’s performance against the market. The company’s software analyzes over $22 billion in investor assets every day.

The technology they’re working on

NextCapital’s financial advice platform powers digital advice strategies for leading investment brands including Russell Investments and Transamerica in addition to serving individual investors. The company's developers partner with major financial institutions to integrate their investment offerings. They also work on the tools that let investors analyze, plan and manage their portfolios and customize their automated advice methodologies.

What does NextCapital look for in developers?

"NextCapital is seeking motivated, smart and team-oriented people that share our mission to reinvent how people plan, save and invest for retirement,” said co-founder and Executive VP Rob Foregger. “We are always looking for talent with strong math, engineering and problem-solving capabilities. We are primarily hiring software engineers, product managers, project managers, financial analysts and portfolio operations specialists. We hire aggressively out of the Chicago-area university systems. NextCapital has nearly doubled in size over the past 12 months, with now over 75 employees."

How do you get a foot in the door in the trading tech industry?

"Some of the most exciting innovations in financial technology come from hiring team members with diverse backgrounds,” said Foregger. “Applying new technologies to old business models often leads to great things. Don't be afraid to think differently!"

 

Founded in 2002, Belvedere Trading specializes in equity index and commodity derivatives. The firm runs its electronic trading operations from its headquarters in downtown Chicago, using high-performance, low-latency proprietary trading technology.

The technology they’re working on

Always on the lookout for the best tool for the job, Belvedere has 11 different technology teams working to expand and enhance the company’s trading software suite. Its low-latency systems primarily use C and C++ with assembly language at critical performance points on the back end, with C#-based Windows Presentation Foundation on the front end. Solutions that don’t require the same kind of low-latency performance are largely built in Python, and Belvedere’s developer teams are also branching out into a web stack using React and Flux. The company firmly believes in the polyglot approach, using myriad data stores to achieve top performance for every use case.

What does Belvedere look for in developers?

“At Belvedere, building high performing teams requires a diverse set of skills and temperaments. Because of this, we don’t look for any singular type of person — we more so look for the people who will fit in well with our culture,” said Project Manager Tess Hartigan. “Some of our team members have decades of experiences and some team members are fresh out of school; some are former CTOs with broad-based knowledge and some are experts in niche areas and industries. While there is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to Team Belvedere, there is one common thread that connects all of our employees — the desire and passion to learn and excel, both individually and as a team.”

How do you get a foot in the door in the trading tech industry?

“To enter any industry there is the obvious necessity to show knowledge of and interest in the discipline, but when it comes to trading technology the ability to learn quickly is crucial,” said CTO Yezdaan Baber. “And when we say learn, we’re looking for more than just a high-level knowledge of a topic; we’re looking for a deep understanding. For example, at Belvedere Trading, one of our company core values is ‘Intellectual Curiosity,’ meaning we expect our employees to be inquisitive and constantly seek that deep understanding of what they may not currently know. Having a curious mind and the drive to obtain knowledge proves incredibly valuable.

“Another piece of advice that may seem a little out of the box is play a team sport competitively at some point throughout your life,” added Director of Recruitment, Jackie Flaherty. “It will help your social skills tremendously in the business world, both in this industry and others.”

 

Founded in Chicago in 1995, Chicago Trading Company now has operations in New York and London in addition to its downtown headquarters. As a proprietary trading firm, CTC makes markets in commodities as well as equities and interest rates, and is a major liquidity provider at exchanges all over the world.

The technology they’re working on

CTC’s technology team builds and operates the proprietary trading software that makes the firm successful, and many key components of that platform are coded in house. The company’s developers work closely with the trading staff, using their feedback to adjust workflows and improve performance. Its distributed systems are built in Java, Python and C++, primarily within a Linux environment, and are constantly updated through short software development cycles.

What does CTC look for in developers?

“We have a wide variety of technology skillsets at CTC because we’re involved in complete system development and integration,” said CIO Brad Marsh. “This includes software development, operations and infrastructure. Aside from having a deep subject matter expertise in a specific domain, we are looking for highly skilled people that work well in team environments, and who collaborate and communicate well.”

How do you get a foot in the door in the trading tech industry?

“Industry experience is important to us,” said Director of Talent Management Russ Nykaza. “We also look for people outside of our industry to help bring in additional perspectives and skills. We have a first-class education program that helps people understand both options trading and market making. Even more important is cultural fit, the ability to work in a team environment, and a strong desire to continuously learn and adapt are keys to success.”

 

Images via listed companies.

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