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How Wall Street is Poaching Silicon Valley Talent

<> on July 9, 2015 in New York City.<> on July 9, 2015 in New York City.
Wall Street wants to hire computer scientistsPhoto by Spencer Platt via Getty Images

Hedge funds and asset managers are reportedly working to lure computer scientists away from Silicon Valley’s most attractive tech companies to work on Wall Street.

The finance industry has traditionally turned to mathematicians and physicians to analyze “structured data,” notes the Financial Times, but it has increasingly been looking toward “unstructured data” to make market predictions. Unstructured data is often collected from social media and Internet searches and, with no pre-defined data model, requires the algorithm-coding capabilities of computer scientists.

And now, Jared Butler, a headhunter from banking recruitment firm Selby Jennings, tells the FT, technologists are higher priority in recruiting than traders because “It’s easier to hire a computer scientist and teach them the financial world than the other way around.”

The FT reports that Two Sigma, a $28 billion hedge fund and one of the quickest growing finance companies, recently hired Google’s (GOOG) former vice president of research and special initiatives, Alfred Spector, to be its new chief scientist. BlackRock (BLK), the world’s largest asset manager, has also hired a Google veteran: Bill MacCartney used to be an engineer for the tech giant and is now the managing director of BlackRock’s “scientific-active equity” team.

Dennis Ruhl, head of J.P. Morgan Asset Managment’s quantitative behavioral finance unit, tells the FT that although the industry needs more computer scientists, it’s difficult to attract them to finance because it has “suffered an image crisis in recent years.” Finance companies are trying to overcome this obstacle by establishing close ties to universities and setting up contests to discover new talent.

Though Google and other Silicon Valley companies may seem more glamorous to young tech talent, making it a challenge to attract computer scientists to Wall Street, Butler believes that salary and intellectual challenges will help the industry pull in more people.