Marc. Investment Management Graduate. CASS.
1. Tell me how your career journey has gone since you graduated?
Everything went really fast. So I got my first job in 2013 after my Master’s degree through GRB. I stayed two years with them. The job was exciting, it was good but the only thing was it wasn’t the right time anymore as I arrived in this industry slightly behind the curve. A lot of sales and fixed income traders were being replaced by algorithms or platforms so the market is a little bit more difficult for sales people not traders so I had to decide whether to specialise in fixed income in investment banking and then risk being over qualified and when I get to 40 years old they say we don’t need you anymore or do I jump to the other side of fence and go electronic. So I got approached by other headhunters with firms like Bloomberg and then I got a really good offer have been there for 3.5 years. I loved my first company and the team but I just saw this trend going up with the market changing and thought my opportunities would be limited and I was right to make the move. My job now has exploded with trading and covering clients in Geneva, Monaco, Paris and London. Volumes have increased drastically since I joined and it’s going pretty well.
2. What was your motivation for choosing this career?
Originally I wanted to be a test pilot for fighter jets but because I had asthma as a kid I couldn’t do it but no one is born and wants to work in finance but the money and excitement was a motivation, mainly the second one. I wanted something to keep my brain working and challenge me so banking was what appealed to me. I’ve always been interested in stocks and looking at companies, how they perform, etc. so when I knew I couldn’t be a test pilot my mum said do some more research into what a trader does and then I set out to do that. One thing that I thought was missing was the human side, the relationship part. I ended up working at Societe Generale on a specific French contract and loved working with options. Being a doctor or a fireman is the type of passion/dream job only a few can have and do at the same time, mine was pilot, I couldn’t do it, but I still did something I enjoyed.
In the beginning did you use your degree knowledge and skillset you got from uni?
Yes it did although there’s always stuff you never learn at school. So many things whether it’s like the whole vocabulary that traders use, they never teach you that. They don’t also teach you things like rapidity to trade, where your eyes should go on the screen to be really efficient so there’s a lot of things that they don’t always prepare you for at school. Everything I learnt at CASS about fixed income I was using most of it. I remember for the interview I smashed all the technical questions. I have used the knowledge on a daily basis so I can demonstrate to clients that I understand how it works and that’s how you make a sale.
3. What new skills have you developed?
I think it’s more like confidence because when I arrived in the industry although you have the theoretical knowledge you always have these doubts that the guy in front of you who is 40 years old and I’m only 24 and so you think you know it but they have the experience and maybe you are wrong but you learn that not everyone knows as much as you think! There’s a lot of assumptions about what people know and it’s not always true so that is something I’ve learnt. I’m working with people coming up to retirement and because the industry is changing so fast that they were on top of their game and really smart in the past but they are sometimes less adaptable to the current market or not up to date and so my confidence has really grown. Building relationships with clients is also another area I’ve been able to develop. Pure knowledge is important and staying on top of the market.
4. At this stage are you where you’d hope to be in that time frame?
It is and it isn’t because when I compare myself to other people in the industry I am in a very good place with a good salary so I know I’m in the right place in finance and trading. I will never be satisfied although I like the team and I have been given responsibility I know others on better salaries. The industry asks so much of us and is so competitive like you need a masters, an MBA, etc. so when you stay too long with a company you get bored. I think our parent’s generation was less studies and then spend 20-30 years with the same company which isn’t true anymore as it wasn’t in our education. We’ve been taught to be competitive, ambitious and challenged in order to succeed and it’s so true in finance. So I think I’ve achieved more than a lot of people for my age in this industry but I also see that I need to do more.
5. Did you have a career plan?
My ultimate goal is to have my own company one day so it’s another reason why I moved from trading to electronic trading to improve my skillset. It’s more about what’s behind the screen to improve trading but it’s so new. A lot of algorithms and AI and how to apply it to trading.
6. How did you make it happen?
Well I tried to never to listen to people who said I couldn’t make it so when you look at my resume you can see that I moved from the back office to the middle office to the front office. There is this mentality that you stay too long in the back office you’ll never break through. When I got to the middle office I had a lot of people telling me I’d never make it to front office especially in an investment bank. This was in 2010 in the middle of the crisis but I kept studying, networking and staying motivated. I declined two full time job offers that were middle office which were well paid but I didn’t want to stay there so I went back to study when I got into CASS. Taking this risk was something some of my friends didn’t do but I went for it.
7. Job hunting strategy?
Yes I did lots of research and of course GRB helped get me started in my career.
8. Who did you take advice from?
No-one in the finance industry. Only a handful of people who encouraged me but mainly my parents especially my Dad who was from a poor background and was told he would never succeed as a commercial pilot which was his dream but he went to the Caribbean as it was cheaper to train there, came back and became a 747 pilot for Air France. So this pushed me to never give up. Even lecturers try to manage your expectations saying it is hard and you might not get in but you only need one job offer to get in. In French we say you must create your luck, meaning to keep pushing, be in the right place in the right time and opportunities will happen.
9. What advice would you give a fresh graduate – a 20 something version of yourself?!
The first job you will have is not necessarily the right one for you. Once I got the job I realised I was behind the curve so I was disappointed but it helped to make a step in the right direction. It may take one or two extra steps to get the job that’s right so you have to adjust your path.
10. Any challenges during the transition from uni to work?
Politics was the biggest challenge and something you never learn. But in any social circle with family or friends there are some politics but it so much stronger in a company. Maybe I was a bit naïve in the beginning but when you see how things actually work in the corporate environment that was the hardest part. You want to be pushing yourself and doing your best but you find yourself limited by politics. It can be tougher in small companies plus the international aspect like it’s different for a Japanese company compared to an American one. How they address issues is very different and behaviour is very different. London has a strong cultural aspect to it rather than for example in Paris, or working for a French company, so this was a big adjustment. People can play stupid games despite doing your best it can come down to talking to the right person to get things done. In America if you suck they’ll tell you but a Japanese firm may be polite up front but once you are out of the room they will talk about you differently. 80% of the job is about the work you do and the rest is about politics that will help you get to the next level.
11. Advice for first week and few months of a new job? (office etiquette, politics, etc)
Talk to as many people as you can especially in a sales career. I see new starters all the time and I see them sit at their desk but I decided to talk to as many people in different departments even just 10 mins over coffee so I could see how their job has an impact on my job, how we are interacting so how I can help them do their job better and what they can do to help me. It’s a missed opportunity to improve yourself and your chances at work. I learnt this from back office, to middle office to front office.
12. Anything you would do differently if you could start over?
Yes. I would do more coding studies with a major in finance as now it’s all about algorithms and AI. The people who are going to make the big money will be coders. It’s definitely the future, everything is going electronic like calling a taxi or renting a house, it’s the same in trading so I think it would have opened more doors if I’d done this. It’s not too late but it’s harder to do now as I’m more committed to my job.
13. One final top tip?
Knock on every door. Try to speak to as many people as you can, network, as you only need one job offer to get a foot on the ladder.