Goldman Sach's New York headquarters has replaced 600 of its traders with 200 computer engineers over the last two decades or so, thanks to automated trading programs. (Though, the effort to do so has accelerated over the past five years.) "Marty Chavez, the company's deputy chief financial officer and former chief information officer, explained all this to attendees at a symposium on computer's impact on economic activity held by Harvard's Institute for Applied Computational Science last month," reports MIT Technology Review. From their report:
The experience of its New York traders is just one early example of a transformation of Goldman Sachs, and increasingly other Wall Street firms, that began with the rise in computerized trading, but has accelerated over the past five years, moving into more fields of finance that humans once dominated. Chavez, who will become chief financial officer in April, says areas of trading like currencies and even parts of business lines like investment banking are moving in the same automated direction that equities have already traveled. Today, nearly 45 percent of trading is done electronically, according to Coalition, a U.K. firm that tracks the industry. In addition to back-office clerical workers, on Wall Street machines are replacing a lot of highly paid people, too. Complex trading algorithms, some with machine-learning capabilities, first replaced trades where the price of what's being sold was easy to determine on the market, including the stocks traded by Goldman's old 600. Now areas of trading like currencies and futures, which are not traded on a stock exchange like the New York Stock Exchange but rather have prices that fluctuate, are coming in for more automation as well. To execute these trades, algorithms are being designed to emulate as closely as possible what a human trader would do, explains Coalition's Shahani. Goldman Sachs has already begun to automate currency trading, and has found consistently that four traders can be replaced by one computer engineer, Chavez said at the Harvard conference. Some 9,000 people, about one-third of Goldman's staff, are computer engineers.