Canary Wharfian

Jul 8, 2014
We had a conversation with an emerging markets trading Managing Director.

Read our first interview here.

Can you talk a little about your educational background?

I got a degree in the late 90’s in Economics. Afterwards, I got a JD and did some work in law.

How did your career move from law into finance?

Well, I worked for a few years in finance law, doing M&A and financing; also a bit of restructuring. But, I always kind of liked finance a little bit better than law I guess. I think it was a personality thing for me. In law, people tend to be more introverted and individual, which is perfectly okay. For me, though, I enjoy being on the trading or banking floor, where you can go up and talk with people. In general, I think banking has an environment which attracts extroverted people.

You worked for a US bank for awhile and now a Swiss bank.

Yeah, and now I’m still doing similar work in fixed income trading and lending in London. I do a bit of work in Europe, but I mostly focus on emerging markets.

What are some of the cultural differences between working at a US bank and a Swiss one?

I don’t know if you can generalize about all US banks, but more decisions were driven from the US as opposed to locally at the Swiss bank. At the Swiss bank, there is a lot more local decision-making. At the US bank, it was more hierarchical, like in the army, while at the Swiss bank everything is more run by consensuses or committee.

But I think that what’s more important than the bank culture is your team and your boss, because you can have teams with very different cultures within the same bank. As long as you are happy with your team, I believe that is more important than the bank culture.

Does that mean you are at the Swiss firm because of the team?

Exactly. Actually, my boss moved to the Swiss bank, and he invited me to come join him. I really liked working with him so I transferred too. Like I said, it matters a lot less what the large organization is and more the immediate team and management. I would encourage someone entering the field to find which team is the right fit for their goals and interests.

How long have you been here in London?

I’ve been here for 6 or so years.

What do you like about working in finance in London?

It’s nice being in the central hub of where lots of activity is happening. It makes things easier than being in a small satellite office. You know, it doesn’t matter anymore whether you are looking at Russia, Poland, Turkey, whatever. The bottom line is that the decision to finance or not is taken in London, so it’s the place where the decision making happens.

What would you say is a typical day for you?

Your hours depend more on the group you are with than the bank you are at. For me, I usually work 9am to 8pm. You spend lots of time there, but it also depends on your seniority because responsibilities change a bit. I spend a lot of time dealing with emails, answering different people, participating in conference calls, etc. Depending on the day, I may have meetings with clients in the office or elsewhere in London. A lot of participating in meetings and conferences is to lessen differences and breach the gap in order to structure deals and increase the chances of them being successful.

Nowadays, because of the increase in regulations, about 10 percent of my day is dealing with all kinds of internal bureaucracies, like preparations for committees. I think this is pretty true at most banks.

How do you think the changes in regulations will affect the industry as a whole? Would you say the sales side is not as lucrative as before?

It’s true that the sales side is becoming less lucrative because of regulations, but it's also slightly because of technological advancements. This is especially true regarding more liquid assets. As more and more trading gets automated, there is less need for human intervention. But that is mostly for stocks and highly liquid assets. For less liquid markets where there isn’t a public market, such as loans and derivatives, structure-product stuff, etc., it’s much harder to replace this with a computer, so most people will be fine.

I wouldn’t be worried much about the industry as a whole. Just try to learn the basic skills well, the more the better, and soon you will be able to do a lot of stuff, whether it’s in a bank or on the buy side.

What are some of these skills?

Something I did early in my career that I think really helped me was learning general credit skills. I think you should consider doing this, unless you really know you want to be involved in equities, in which case you should learn general equity skills. You should definitely learn analytic and technical skills, and you can work in a bank in any number of different roles.

What’s pretty common these days is for someone to work for maybe 3 years at a bank and then move to a hedge fund, a private equity fund, or an asset management firm like Fidelity or Blackstone. You can do that when you have the basic skills in equities side or fixed income side, for example.

What do you see yourself doing in 5 years?

I really like what I do for now. I really like trying to originate a deal, structure it, analyze it, find co-investors or hedge funds if necessary and get them interested in making a deal. It’s a challenging career that can also be very rewarding. I was never able to look forward 5 years, not even when I started. I think it depends on your personality. I prefer to react to opportunities rather than having one plan and following it no matter what, while some people prefer the opposite.

Thanks so much for your time!

No problem.
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