Michael Cunningham – Software Engineer for Barclays Pre-Market Trade Team, is a good man to have by your side. Working on the Barclays Trade Floor, using cutting edge tools to design systems that will trade billions of dollars.
In your own words what does Barclays Investment Bank do?
We are a well-known British Investment Bank with over 300 years’ experience involved in multiple banking areas serving clients and customers throughout the world.
What are your main priorities and goals in your role?
My main priorities and goals consist of designing, developing and maintaining the trading systems used by the sales traders here in New York. This consists mainly of working with complex computer algorithms and handling huge amounts of data in ways that benefit our business. We as a team sit directly beside the sales traders on the trading floor to ensure the easiest forms of communication and collaboration. This also enables my team to implement business priorities into the code base relatively quickly and efficiently.
What are your biggest challenges?
The biggest challenges we face are mainly speed and efficiency in developing algorithms. We use various coding languages to design them, as there are some benefits that favor one over another, and certain trade offs depending on what exactly needs done and where. I suppose there are different challenges that come with different projects but this would be an underlying challenge throughout all projects.
How do you keep your team/staff motivated?
In terms of motivation, I suppose it comes from the various challenges we face every day. From a developer point of view, you are designing systems that trade over 10 billion dollars on an average day and are right in the thick of the action on the trading floor and all the crazy things that can entail from 9:30am to 4pm. It’s not quite the wolf of wall street as so many of my friends ask me, but there is a certain buzz about, especially on big days of the trading calendar. Personally, this serves as huge motivation as if you are a developer working in finance, it does not get much better than that.
What are the challenges facing your industry going forward?
Going forward, our main challenge is trying to compete on these shores with the major US Banks. I heard recently that we are in and around the 5th or 6th ranked Investment Bank in the US, so obviously we are always trying to establish a bigger presence, and compete with the JP Morgan’s and Goldman Sachs’ of this world. In terms of the industry as a whole, who knows what the future holds, but as long as there is publicly listed companies, there will be a need for exchanges and a drive for technology to house these exchanges.
What new trends are emerging in your industry?
In one word; Technology. Like everything in this day and age, the technology we utilize nowadays is paramount for a successful operation. The fact that the developers now sit directly on the trading floor is testament to this.
How did your strategy develop in the context of the banking crisis and economic crisis?
I suppose I was still in college when the recession badly hit, so I do not really know the huge changes made, but I am told there are is a lot more stricter regulation in everything we do. But as I came in when this is the norm, I suppose I do not know it any other way.
How will Brexit affect you, or have you started to feel the effects already?
As we are a British bank, Brexit and the threat of Brexit is having huge implications for our business. But in saying that, we are (and have been) developing contingency plans to ensure we have a ‘business as usual’ approach to serve our clients and customers regardless of the outcome of Brexit.
How do you define success and what drives you to succeed?
I suppose being successful is being happy in what you do and enjoy what you’re doing. I have found here that it is not necessarily how much money you have, but the difference you can make for the better. Yes you are going to have your good days and your bad days, but if you can buy into what you and your team are trying to achieve, and just enjoy that process of setting ambitious goals and achieving them, then that is what I would define as successful. To answer what drives me to succeed, I suppose it is just an ambition to do the most I can in the limited time I have. I have a few more things I would like to do in the near and distant future, so I am always setting goals for myself and working hard to achieve them. These short term and long term goals give me the necessary motivation and determination to drive on and be successful.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given, or would give, in business?
I suppose to summarize the best advice I have heard over the years, it would be; Embrace curiosity, listen to others who have walked the path before you, believe in yourself and work hard towards accomplishing what you want. At the end of the day, if it is to be it is up to me.
What have been your highlights in business over the past year?
I suppose over the last year, my highlights would be working for Navillus Contracting here in New York and then starting in the trading team at Barclays. At Navillus, I learnt probably more in a year than others would in 5 years, due to the need to really understand the user requirements for what I am trying to achieve and seeing first-hand the difference the product can make to the end users. And then getting the call from Barclays to come and contribute to their trading team where you will be using cutting edge tools to design systems that will trade billions of dollars; It’s been quite a year.
What opportunities or plans for growth do you see in 2019?
In terms of company growth, again there is a big push from the investment bank to create a real US presence and compete with the big 4 banks. In terms of personal growth, I have looked into the possibility of doing an MBA. I am very interested in broadening my horizons in terms of understanding business practices and getting into the nuts and bolts of how different businesses operate. I am still just finding out as much as I can on the matter and have been talking to a few IIBN members about it, and hopefully a few more before I decide what is the best course of action.