Jonathan Harte, VP in market risk technology reporting solutions, Bank of America Merrill Lynch
Jonathan Harte, VP in market risk technology reporting solutions, Bank of America Merrill Lynch

‘Make sure your work isn’t throwaway’, says Bank of America VP

23 Jun 2016

The world of tech can be incredibly niche, and its jobs even more so. Sure, you know what a software engineer does, but what about the other myriad jobs in the sector?

Jonathan Harte is a Bank of America Merrill Lynch VP in market risk technology reporting solutions – a dense job title, for sure, and one that’s necessary to unpack a little.

Here, Harte tells us about his day-to-day work in fintech, and what skills and tools he uses to get his job done.

What is your role within Bank of America Merrill Lynch?

I am a vice president in market risk technology reporting solutions.

Can you tell us about your background?

I studied Business Information Systems in University College Cork before landing a graduate position with Bank of America Merrill Lynch in Dublin back in June 2008.

My first role was in liquidity risk technology, specifically working on developing new platforms required to meet regulatory requirements in Ireland and the UK. After two years, I moved to Hong Kong, where I started in market risk. I sat with market risk managers for credit products, designing reports and automating processes. Three years later, I moved to New York, to assume my current role in the market risk technology team.

It was thanks to the training and skills I’d learned in Dublin that I was able to secure the opportunities in Hong Kong and New York.

What steps led you to this role?

It was a natural progression.

The first couple of years were about settling into professional life and learning as much as I could on the tech side of things. My experience in Hong Kong was invaluable. I sat on the trading desk and was exposed to interactions between traders and risk managers. That experience really broadened my knowledge of the business.

In New York, I’ve been able to lead a team, which has been great for developing my leadership skills.

If there is such a thing, can you describe a typical day in the job?

I start off the day by checking in with my team in India. This could be a five-minute catch-up or an hour-long session. Then, I spend most mornings in meetings where I work closely with colleagues in the Dublin office to discuss, for example, the strategic direction for reporting or how to streamline reporting production.

Afternoons are generally spent working on new tasks, catching up with my US team leads or gathering client feedback. Throw in some code review sessions and candidate interviews, and the hours slip by pretty quickly.

What type of projects do you work on?

We have a team mantra: strategic and generic. What it means is that any new item that we are working on needs to be on the strategic path so that it is not ‘throwaway’ work. Generic means that we do not write solutions for specific problems. Rather, we write solutions for general problems so that code is reusable across the reporting space.

Right now, we are reworking the way our business partners interact with our data so that there is a consistent approach across business lines.

What skills do you use on a daily basis?

I use a mixture of hard and soft skills.

I code on a daily basis – mostly in Python – and review other people’s code. Running a small team has enhanced my leadership, organisational and mentoring skills. I feel that as you grow in your career, the need for good soft skills becomes more and more important.

Do you have any productivity tips that help you through the day?

Make notes and lists. If the answer to a question will take you less than two minutes to give, you are better to respond right away. If it takes any longer, tell the person you will come back to them and put it on your to-do list. And minutes of a meeting can prove to be very valuable.

How has this role changed as the sector has grown and evolved?

I see it mostly when I interview college graduates or interns. Every one of them has developed some sort of mobile application, and they want roles where they can show off their creativity and innovation.

In my role, the adoption of Agile methodologies has greatly enhanced the coding experience – it’s provided quicker results and gained instant feedback.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I’ve been very lucky. My career path has taken me from Dublin to Hong Kong to New York, developing me both professionally and personally at each step.

Now, the decisions I make have a direct influence on how our clients use our reporting applications. What I enjoy most about the role is finding a solution that makes the client’s job easier. I like problem-solving.

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