Programming in finance

Hey guys, first time posting. Passed CFA 1, doing CFA 2 (again) this year. I haven’t yet started working in the finance industry, I am currently working the the accounting department for Movie and TV production (mostly because the starting salaries are ridiculous and there is a lot of time off during the year to study for the CFA exams).


I’m planning to break into an analyst position early in the new year and seeing as I lack a bit of direct experience I’m trying to compensate with some skill.

My question to you guys is, how many of you have learned to use programming as a way to make your job easier as an analyst? What Languages have you learned for the job? Is there a demand for knowing how to program in the finance industry?

Everybody uses Excel, so start with VBA. If you start doing it productively, you’ll begin to understand programming logic, benefits, etc. and migrate towards heavier languages if needed. But the most universal one that I can think of even if you don’t end up doing quant stuff full time would be VBA.

yea learn programming huge plus

Cool, I finished up the first of three lessons on SQL last week, seems like a lot of job postings were asking for it. But thanks for your suggestion Destroyer of Worlds I’ll check out VBA as well.

Any suggestions as to which languages Igor?

And for anyone looking to learn check out


I was consulting for Mitsubishi Nuclear Energy systems in '11 & '12 in project risk management. One of the things I programmed in VBA was setting the colors in very complex bar charts (green if the value were below some low level, yellow for middle values, red for values above some high level), and mapped it to a button so all I had to do was import the data, click the button, and it created these nice charts that even managers – with their notoriously limited comprehension skills – could understand.

Set up a spreadsheet, get it to do the calculations you want, test it a few times to make sure that it’s bulletproof, then automate it in VBA. The first one will take a long time; the rest will be lightning fast, and accurate.

^ Agree S2K…I’ve become somewhat of an old coot, championing VBA, and while hardcore “devs” (puke) frown on the language, it makes me laugh how dilettantes with zero programming skills think they can take the cues from someone who knows all of the sexier languages and jump on the “VBA is for noobs” bandwagon. The fact is, even cool programs developed in Python, C++, etc. still dump outputs into Excel. Why wouldn’t someone want to automate that?

Even supposedly mundane actions like you describe with the chart formatting…it always amazes me how many man-hours are spent in Excel doing that kind of thing when someone could just learn how to automate the process once and never manually get their hands dirty again. Oh, and also look like a total productivity stud while your clueless colleagues are farting around with vlookup functions.

I would pick python over vba. Python is a lot easier and there are tons of good open source libraries for pretty much anything

The thing is that most true programming tasks in finance companies are delegated to actual programmers. I haven’t touched any “real” programming languages since my career started. If I want someone to write some model code or something, I will ask the quant/developers to do it. However, almost everyone uses Excel as a front end interface, so VBA is still very useful and frankly, is relevant to many more jobs.

VBA kid cudi and SQL. Neither one are rocket science.