If you’re a student applying for a job in an investment bank, you probably have an idea which kind of role you want to go into – most people applying think they want to work in either M&A or trading. However, one experienced financial markets professional who mentors students, says many of those he speaks to don’t really understand how today’s trading floors work.
“Students who want to be traders usually have a specific view of what they think it will be like and it resembles the role of a trader in the old days,” says Daniel Weilenmann, an experienced FX salesman. “They think they will be building positions and making judgements about the market. In fact, the job of a trader in an investment bank is mostly about risk management, and traders spend most of their time adjusting financial parameters, looking at spreadsheets or engaged in deep programming as they sift through market data."
Because of this, Weilenmann says trading jobs in banks are suited to a particular sort of person. – You’ll need to be happy working on your own with numbers all day. If you’re not, he says you should rethink.
“A lot of people are relationship-driven,” says Weilenmann. “They like to speak to people and to interact.”
There’s not much of that in trading now. Many jobs are simply about executing trades, says Weilenmann. “You’re really just managing the order flows. You’re at the desk, looking at the system and making sure everything works.”
For this reason, Weilenmann says more students should consider careers in sales jobs in investment banks. “If you work in sales, you can apply a narrative to the market instead of just crunching the numbers,” he says. While some sales positions involve selling a bank’s electronic trading capabilities as a whole, others still entail working closely with clients on a daily basis and nurturing relationships over time.
This can be fulfilling and interesting. As a macro salesperson, Weilenmann says his job involves understanding how markets interact with events across the world, and helping clients to trade accordingly. “The macro side of the business is linked to everything that goes on in the world. Every day’s a rolling wheel, and you see patterns that are of interest to clients.”
Sales people are typically more extroverted than traders, but Weilenmann says extroverts aren’t always ideal: the best salespeople need to be excellent listeners so that they can really understand what clients want.
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