Teaching traders to code in Python

I used to like burgers. I still like burgers. Ok, some things don’t really change. However, that’s probably an exception. Most things do change, in particular in finance. I started my career in FX nearly 15 years ago. The must have tool was (and still is!) Excel and perhaps to a lesser extent VBA (which again is still good to know!). The main folks that coded in banks were tech and quant folks. I spent most of my days coding just as I do now, except it was mostly Java and Matlab then, whereas now it’s Python.


Things have really changed. Being able to code in financial firms is no longer simply something that tech and quants do. Increasingly, coding, especially in Python, is seen as important if you’re on the trading desk. I’ve recently started teaching Python for finance as a visiting lecturer, and the number of students wanting to learn the subject surprised me. But then again, for grads wanting to join banks, having Python on your CV is going to be pretty helpful.


Over the years, I’ve received many messages from traders wanting to learn Python and add this very useful additional skill to their CV. So what can you do if you’re a trader who wants to upskill and learn Python? There are many online resources you can try. There’s also Python courses that you can attend in person (and ever so subtle plug: I can come to your firm and teach my Python course on site as a workshop and I’ve already presented Python lectures in many banks already). Obviously the benefit of a workshop is that’s it’s a properly interactive in a way something online won’t be and will hopefully give you the impetus to learn to code. In practice you’re likely to adopt a mix of different ways to learn online resources, courses and books.


Whatever way you choose though, coding whether in Python or any other language is a practical skill. Hence, you do need to put in the hours to code yourself after class, and get stuck! There are loads of Python libraries I’m still learning about every week. Reading about them is useful, but the only way I can learn is to code up examples and to try to solve some simple problems. Putting together my Python course has actually been a great exercise in itself for me, plugging in a few gaps in my Python knowledge!


I’d also say the key benefit of a trader who also codes in Python, is that they have very valuable domain knowledge about markets. This can give them insights about precisely which data problems can benefit from being solved using Python, rather than spending time working a solution that won’t be used in practice.


If you’re a trader, it’s never too late to learn coding. I’m not suggesting everyone suddenly becomes a coding guru, but a little bit of coding knowledge is likely to go a long way, and allow you to become more productive. Gone will be the days of manual spreadsheet updates, so you can focus on what matters most for a trader: generating alpha! If you’re interested in having me teach Python at an in house workshop let me know! Topics I cover, start from basic concepts to Python, to how to backtest trading strategies and many other use cases for financial markets.