Canary Wharfian

Jul 8, 2014
In the next few weeks we are going to post a lot of interesting content on working in the Wharf, starting off with a Managing Director who has been working as a trader for a bulge bracket investment bank for more than 10 years.

You have an undergraduate degree and two masters from the same university. You must have really liked it there!

I did it all in 5 and a half years; I didn't spend too long there. Even though I did like it and had an enjoyable time, I just wanted to get in and out of school as soon as possible.

What was it like going from engineering into the finance world?

I started in Engineering and Physics, kind of very theoretical. Then, I did a masters in Electrical Engineering, that was a little bit more practical and kept me interested in doing something in the science and engineering space. But, I eventually decided to get an MBA, making a career choice that, rather than spend any time in engineering or science related, go straight into finance. So, although I studied engineering, all my work experience is actually in finance.

Engineering definitely teaches you a certain way of thinking about problems that is useful, and so does getting an MBA.

Where have you lived other than London?

I have lived in Tokyo, Hong Kong, the US, and Paris.

Can you speak all those different languages?

Speaking Mandarin or Cantonese is a challenge for anyone, so no. Japanese I understand a fair bit, I wouldn‘t say 100%, probably more like 50%. I can speak a few things very well which can get you into trouble, with people thinking you are very good at Japanese. On the French side, my understanding is pretty good and speaking is not bad.

What is a typical average day for you?

In the morning, I am just checking to see where New York closed the previous day and same thing with Asia. Also, I check to see if there are any major transactions that I need to review for the firm. Getting ready for the day may involve working on particular transactions, maybe working on infrastructure or analytics. Preparing for meetings with the regulators is becoming an increasing part of my day.

You are not working as many hours as when you started out, are you?

I am not sure I believe that. I would say I am pretty disciplined in the following: as soon as I am out of the office, I try to spend not much time working. I try not to do things at home per say. I am in the office 6:30 in the morning and usually leave 7:30 at night. On the weekends, I do read my blackberry and emails, but I don’t try to get on the phone and have long conference calls. So it’s not like an investment banking M&A gig, I try to be very disciplined that I work at the office.

How do you like the differences between trading and management?

I still have a trading book. I am probably one of the few guys at my level who still retains a trading mandate and still trades. I think trading and being part of the markets is an interesting thing, and I find it probably the more interesting part of my job. Management I can do reasonably well. There are good and negative parts of it, but it’s the same with trading. Trading is not always enjoyable. I am in a fortunate place where I have kind of a predominance of management but still able to trade and be involved in the markets.

What is it like being a director at (Company) compared to other firms?

I worked at one of the top firms in derivatives during the heyday. Then I moved to work at two other shops, which I would say we could argue probably second or third tier. And then I was back to the company I’m working at now, which is a premier place. There are differences; clearly you are in a bigger pond, surrounded with different people.

When I speak to people, they talk to me about what I look for in a place of work. I think it’s not only around the content of the job, but the people and what you can learn. For any person who is looking at firms, starting out, they should take the job where they can learn the most.

How do you think regulation and the industry in the whole will change?

Clearly the compensation profile has changed in the long end, but I still think for people who are new to the industry, up to a junior level, compensation is still very reasonable and lucrative. I think, though, the slope of the compensation profile for people in trading in banks now is clearly flattened out. Depending on when one started their career, it dropped dramatically from high points. If people think they are solely focused on getting very large numbers, and large being multiple millions, there is a better chance doing that on the hedge fund side.

What do you want to be doing in 5 years?

The challenge to your question is not driven by my like or dislike at the bank I work. It’s probably more the regulatory uncertainty. Unfortunately the direction of travel of the regulatory environment pushes on what one would like to accomplish with their career. It’s a risk/reward trade off, and not only around compensation, but also personal risk that one takes.

In the current environment, my commitments to the ability for the regulators of the firm to look back into and penalise me for behaviour or events which I may have or I may not have control is becoming broader and broader.

I am almost at the point now where I have criminal liability because there is a new senior manager regime within the UK. Fortunately I am not there yet, but it basically means that you can be criminally liable, and you have to prove that you are innocent. I think that’s a bit of a challenge. Depending on the direction of travel, I may make a decision that I don’t want to take that personal risk, and I rather go to another financial services company, but not a bank. So, I do think there are good opportunities within banks, but at some particular point, for some people, there are things that do come up, which are incentivising people to rethink their career. This potentially incentives one to be on the buy-side, rather than on the sell-side.

So what would be your second best option?

Well, one can work at a hedge fund, doing different things. I don’t think I would personally go to a hedge fund and be a PM, because I think being able to make money year in and year out is a very special skill; I don’t think that is necessarily a strength of mine per say. But yes, I could go do it, be lucky and hit the cover up for the ball for a couple of years. If someone wants to do that year in and year out, I think that’s a bit more challenging.

What would you say is the best way to enter the finance industry?

I ended up not doing anything during the summer relevant to finance. I also had one summer internship with an utility company. The question is really around working hard, expanding your horizons, and being focused on your goals. I ended up, with no finance job, bartending for 4 months post-graduation. Even though I had three degrees, I was the most educated bartender in the world.

There isn’t necessarily one set path to enter the industry. I got an MBA, with no work experience, and ended up bartending, but now I’m very happy with how things turned out.

Alright! Thank you very much for your time.