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Businesses Programming The Almighty Buck

High-Frequency Programmers Revolt Over Pay 1018

An anonymous reader writes "Programmers who design and code algorithms for investment banking are unhappy with their salaries. Many of them receive a low 6-figure salary whereas their bosses — who manipulate these algorithms and execute the trades — often earn millions. One such anonymous programmer points out that he was paid $150,000 per year, whereas the software he wrote was generating $100,000 per day."
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High-Frequency Programmers Revolt Over Pay

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  • Simple solution. (Score:1, Informative)

    by characterZer0 ( 138196 ) on Friday July 30, 2010 @09:46AM (#33081924)

    If you think you are underpaid, you have two options. Ask for more money and quit if you do not get it, or quit.

  • by DrgnDancer ( 137700 ) on Friday July 30, 2010 @09:50AM (#33081998) Homepage

    Did you read the article? No, of course you didn't. That's what they're doing.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 30, 2010 @09:54AM (#33082052)

    A counter-point to all of the hate.

    a. The American Dream (tm) says that if you work hard, you will benefit in the end. High risk / effort jobs should pay well
    b. I bet these guys signed some sort of non-compete contract. Let's say that you and your buddies are the golden boys of financial trading algorithms. I think that you should get pay increases if your company is doing well. A 20% pay increase would probably shut them up.
    c. After actually scanning the article,

    Computer jockeys setting up own shops in bids to make millions.


    They are doing so by striking out on their own or forming profit-sharing arrangements. Jeffrey Gomberg, 32, worked for a trading firm that paid him a low-six-figure income after four years on the job. His trader colleagues, by contrast, made millions manipulating the algorithms he'd written.


    The programmer's bosses offered him an office and a $45,000 raise, but he left instead. He found a partner, and together they began trading on their own. The programmer now pockets more than half of any profits his software generates. The programmer says he's making about the same money he did at the job he left. But at his old job he'd topped out in pay while now he says the sky's the limit.

    “I'm on my way to making a ton,” he says

    It seems that they did the right thing. Why are all of you complaining? They didn't like their job, they grew a pair of balls and went out on their own.

    It's amazing what reading TFA can let you know.

  • Re:If it's so easy (Score:3, Informative)

    by DarkKnightRadick ( 268025 ) <> on Friday July 30, 2010 @09:54AM (#33082064) Homepage Journal

    I don't know what he's complaining about. The programmer in question is making more money in one year than most people in my county see at once in several (I say most, there are those who make 6- and even 7-figure salaries around here, though I do believe it is a minority that does so).

  • Re:Excuse me? (Score:2, Informative)

    by KernelMuncher ( 989766 ) on Friday July 30, 2010 @10:01AM (#33082178)
    I'm not an electronic trader but I do work in a data-intensive tech job on Wall Street. And the above mindset is very common - that business guys are super smart and everyone else is a glorified office assistant. All of the senior managers at my company have MBA's and give only minor thanks to the computer scientists and statisticians that keep them employed. My supervisor only has a vague idea of the data and that's only because I keep him informed. Without me the guy would be completely lost. The techies definitely don't get much respect.
  • Re:Simple solution. (Score:5, Informative)

    by iainl ( 136759 ) on Friday July 30, 2010 @10:04AM (#33082212)

    Strangely enough, that's what the article is about. A whole bunch of programmers asking for more money, being told they can't have it, then quitting and setting up competing businesses that are outperforming the first set.

  • by daem0n1x ( 748565 ) on Friday July 30, 2010 @10:05AM (#33082234)
    If they are making too much, they are sucking a lot of money out of the system. The finance system doesn't produce anything, so they're sucking money out of the real economy (and the investors). If this blood-sucking is stopped on its tracks, the overall economy will be more efficient. Out with those fucking leaches!
  • Re:waaaaaaambulance (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 30, 2010 @10:08AM (#33082300)

    Answer: New York City and Chicago, the US financial hubs. Oh, buying almost anything there costs twice as much as everywhere else, so you don't come out that much ahead. But there are plenty of good reasons to choose such a city: culture, etc.

  • Re:Car analogy (Score:4, Informative)

    by Luyseyal ( 3154 ) <(swaters) (at) (> on Friday July 30, 2010 @10:12AM (#33082362) Homepage

    On the east coast, in a big city, that's not that much money.


  • by cc1984_ ( 1096355 ) on Friday July 30, 2010 @10:18AM (#33082434)

    I cannot speak for these guys, but where I work, software I write for the company stays with the company. If I were to leave and go out on my own, I would be violating the terms of my previous contract so in effect I would have to write my software again. I'd be very surprised if this weren't the case here as well.

  • MOD PARENT UP (Score:3, Informative)

    by dazedNconfuzed ( 154242 ) on Friday July 30, 2010 @11:04AM (#33083162)

    This guy, understandably AC, has insights as one of the participants.

  • by XanC ( 644172 ) on Friday July 30, 2010 @11:14AM (#33083318)

    Welcome to the real world, where economics is not a zero-sum game. Just because somebody has more doesn't mean somebody else has less. Peddle your Marxism elsewhere.

  • by alexander_686 ( 957440 ) on Friday July 30, 2010 @12:09PM (#33084396)

    I would disagree. These high frequency trades add liquidity and depth to the market.

    I work for a investment company that offers plain vanilla products [Mutual Funds, Life Insurance, etc.] to average people.

    20 years ago when we traded shares the bid/ask spread was between 12.5 to .25 cents. Now it is routinely lower then a penny.

    When we bought or sold we knew we were going to affect the market – and not in our favor.

    In short, our trading costs [both direct and indirect] have fallen by over 80% because the market is so much more efficient and deeper then when it was. These savings get passed to our investors. This is true for the industry as a whole.

  • by hans_e ( 548959 ) on Friday July 30, 2010 @12:48PM (#33085116) Homepage

    You are correct that economics is not a zero-sum game. Investors pay money to buy stock in a company, and that company tries to create value for its shareholders. If they succeed, then it's a positive-sum game for the shareholders, employees, and customers. When enough companies create value, then the economy grows, and the economy is a positive-sum game.

    However, this article is not talking about the economy as a whole, or about investing, but about high-frequency trading. And trading is a zero-sum game. Value is not created in the 40-milliseconds between trades, and for everyone who makes money trading, someone else is losing money.

    There's a good explanation of this in an article [] by Henry Blodget.

  • by schnell ( 163007 ) <(ten.llenhcs) (ta) (em)> on Friday July 30, 2010 @12:55PM (#33085258) Homepage

    Again, can you quantify the risks the boss of a financial firm faces? What, exactly, does he stand to lose above and beyond the obvious (aka his job) if things go belly-up?

    Many financial firms are start-ups or small partnerships where the CEO or senior partners have invested significant portions of their own wealth into the company, so a failure can not just put them out of a job but also leave them financially wiped out. Even at the huge high-profile firms the senior people are expected to be financially "eating their own dogfood" by having a significant part of their net worth in the company's equity. There is also the possibility of getting sued into oblivion for losing other people's money, facing fines or sanctions if someone (it doesn't have to be you) at your company cut corners and broke the law, etc.

    I'm not saying these people have it tough. But I do think they have a lot of things that could go wrong and hence a helluva lot of stress in return for those ridiculous paychecks.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 01, 2010 @11:10PM (#33106546)

    I've worked in high frequency trading for over four years. There is a lot of misinformation out there. Partly because they're secretive. In terms of programming, I've given many interviews to many coders. The pay depends on the kinds of programming - backoffice, actual strategies, etc. Someone who actually codes strategies usually gets a huge bonus. The base salary is pretty much irrelevant. If these coders are worth there salt but not being remunerated properly, they should move on.

Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons.