Citigroup forms lab for traders to code and coders to trade

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(Bloomberg) --Citigroup Inc. isn’t just teaching traders how to code, it’s also making sure its coders know how to trade.

The company has invited second- and third-year analysts from across its markets and technology teams to apply for Citigroup’s newly formed Markets Acceleration Lab. The firm hopes to select around 12 people to be part of the lab, which kicks off this fall, and use technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence to help solve problems in the firm’s trading business.

Traders need to add new skills to protect their jobs as more activity moves to electronic channels and banks seek to cut costs amid a years-long trading revenue slump. Headcount at the biggest banks’ trading desks have fallen each of the last five years, according to Coalition Development Ltd.

“The intersection of quantitative, technical and markets knowledge is critical,” said Deirdre Dunn, the bank’s regional head of markets for North America. “This is something we’ve been trying to foster in many different ways.”

The group could be tapped to solve a variety of problems, from expanding the firm’s electronic trading businesses to creating visualization tools or optimizing the way Citigroup uses its balance sheet, said Nikhil Joshi, who leads technology for the bank’s global spread products group. If a trader needs a better understanding of certain technologies or a technologist needs to learn how equity markets work, the lab will provide that training, he said.

“The goal here is to attract and create a pipeline of unique talent, and position it in a way that is an alternative and an accelerated career path,” Joshi said.

Citigroup has been boosting technology investments in its markets business. In September, the firm formed Spread Products Investment Technologies, or Sprint, to back fintech companies that could reshape debt markets. Last year, the bank began teaching computer programming to first-year analysts.

The bank has already held several informational sessions on the Markets Acceleration Lab that drew hundreds of participants. The initial cohort will be based in New York, but Citigroup hopes to expand the program globally if it’s successful.

“When I surveyed the markets population and asked what are the problems or kinds of work that people with this skill set could do,” Dunn said, “the response was incredibly enthusiastic.”

Bloomberg News